Any Other Year, Emailgate Would Be A Gamechanger

by Charlie Beckerman

It’s hard not to celebrate on the inside, a little bit, as Donald Trump continues to implode, and not just because it means that the great orange scourge is getting farther and farther away from becoming president. It also means that Hillary Clinton is getting closer. I’ve been a long-time Clinton supporter, voting for her over Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary, and I’ve long felt that Clinton would be a formidable and effective president.

But as more and more information emerges from Clinton’s leaked emails, especially regarding the relationship between the Clinton State Department and the Clinton Foundation, I find myself thinking, she's fortunate that she’s running against Trump. Because Trump’s sins are so bad, it’s making it easy to dismiss Clinton’s.

But what if Clinton wasn’t running against Trump? How would the media treat her in another context? How would I?

The media calculus is more or less straightforward, if not a little nuanced: which narrative grabs the public’s (let’s admit it, fairly base) interests more? Let’s take a few political stories from recent years and put them in a head-to-head with Clinton’s emails.

Back in 2012, one of GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s biggest problems was a story about a road trip that involved the family dog riding on the car roof. In this instance, Clinton’s emails win the media contest: it’s more clearly morally dubious, and begs for further investigation (further investigation into Dogroofgate found that Mitt had made a special windshield for the animal, who was traveling in a dog carrier).

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But up against something juicier — even if it's less jaw-droppingly horrific than Trump’s latest assassination insinuation — like, say, Anthony Weiner’s being caught sexting (twice), the Clinton Foundation/State Department story doesn’t stand a chance. Unless one of the emails has a picture of the candidate holding FIFA-like suitcases of cash, it won’t be as arresting as blurred-out images of Carlos Danger’s wang.Scandalousness-wise, emailgate is in the middle of the pack.


The harder question is: if I’m really honest with myself, how would the emails affect me in an any-other-year context?

Part of the problem is that I’m already fairly cynical about politics (being gay in 2008 and having to listen to all three major Democratic primary candidates say they oppose same-sex marriage will do that to you), and further revelations of high ick-factor proceedings in Clintonworld is hardly surprising. Moreover, I’m far enough to the left (see above) that the Democratic candidate would have to do something really bad to keep me from voting for them (and would probably have to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue to get me to vote for their opponent).

Still, the implications of the emails are troubling, and even if they fit into my understanding of a world that privileges people with money, I would want someone to be asking questions, figuring out exactly what happened, and if necessary, holding people responsible. I’d want Clinton to take responsibility for it and give me an explanation that let me feel better about supporting her candidacy, something she's not doing now.

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In that sense, the answer to the hypothetical isn’t so different from my answer in real life: the revelations of the emails are really disappointing. Not simply because they show an ethical dubiousness, but because it contradicts my understanding of Clinton as a savvy politician. The whole episode betrays a carelessness that changes her from a b*tches-get-stuff-done lady to another run-of-the-mill corrupt pol.

Image: Bustle/Dawn Foster