The Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign part deux is less than a week old, and already reporters and opinionators across America are complaining.
She announced via a video, the ultimate way to control a message and avoid any engagement with real people or the press. She is undertaking a trip by van; nothing novel, simply a redux from her 2000 Senate campaign in New York. For now, at least, she is passing on talking policy in any real detail. For the foreseeable future, she appears interested in talking about relatively uncontroversial topics like “ways families can increase take-home pay, the importance of expanding early childhood education and making higher education more affordable,” or so her advisers told the Associated Press.
About the most exciting thing that has happened to the former secretary of state in the last week—and this includes her announcement—is visiting a Chipotle initially undetected, and subsequently having pictures of her burrito-ordering leaked and posted online.
It’s all so dull, so bland, so scripted, so planned, so typically political. And perhaps, just perhaps, it’s what American voters deserve.
Americans want to believe that we’re a nation of risk-takers, pioneers, people willing to cast comfort and safety aside to achieve a dream, tell the truth, and change the world. Some of us still are those things, too. But in reality, a lot of us have become something else in recent years: narcissistic, overly-cautious, superficial, reality-disconnected, and above all, very, very boring.
Even among those of us who loathe the former Madam Secretary, we have become in so many ways just like her campaign promises to be. We are, in effect, Ready for Hillary.
We have fallen in love with so-called “reality television,” which—surprise!—is often scripted and directed. We freak out about allowing 10-year-olds to play in the park unsupervised. We are obsessed with social media, posting selfies, and racking up followers, friends, and fans.
We frequently reject fully experiencing events and occasions in favor of documenting them, or more accurately documenting ourselves looking hot or cool at or during them. We veer toward what is comfortable and easy, just like Hillary and the Chipotle visit.
We avoid expressing any opinions that could be deemed “controversial” because it could impede our quest for popularity and acceptance. When someone ruffles feathers even just a little, our tendency is toward outrage, boycotts (or buy-ins), public humiliation, and pushing for firings.
We reject substance, preferring to focus on things like the optics of taking a sip of water, or being photographed looking at a smartphone. We wear modern versions of girdles and package-accentuating underwear so we can show off our “best selves.”
Many of us are concerned less with actual learning than just getting a good grade or diploma that we can show off. We think we deserve automatic promotions just for having been around or putting up with some nonsense or other, much as Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters (and perhaps even the candidate herself) seem to think she does. Not for all of us, but for many of us, we are the campaign and the campaign is us.
Not that this will stop the whining.
Just as people like the semblance of getting a “real” glimpse into the Real Housewives of Wherever’s lives, we like the semblance of a genuinely approachable, relatable, human, real-keeping presidential candidate. But when the candidate says something a little too raw or real or sarcastic or even eccentric (as real people might) about abortion, or entitlements, or cronyism, or civil liberties, or foreign policy, we freak out.
When we have a choice between the more open, straight-talking candidate or the one that does everything through self-managed media so that they can control the message to the maximum conceivable degree, we go for the latter.
When we have a choice between uncomfortable substance and truth on the one hand, and reality or feel-good talking points and make-believe on the other, we reject the former.
When we have a choice between airbrushed images in magazines or seeing the way people actually look, we want the Photoshop.
When we have a choice between meeting people in real life, with all the potential awkwardness that might entail, or just sitting around texting and Facebook messaging, more and more, we seem to go for the “virtual.” We don’t want the sacrifices or pain entailed to really achieve; we prefer the comfort of telling ourselves that we are excelling, even when any objective analysis would show that is at best a half-truth. We don’t actually want reality, whether in our entertainment, our jobs, our education, our lives, or our politics. We just want something that kind of looks like it.
Hillary Clinton may appear past her political prime: a constructed, fake and self-obsessed persona; a boring, risk-averse, default option for a party out of touch with many of its would-be constituents and lacking in creativity and ambition.
But given the way many Americans lead our lives now, she may also be exactly what we deserve.