Re-airing grievances from last year’s presidential election may offer nothing in the way of changing people’s hearts or minds, or the power scenario in Washington.
But this week’s 2016 redux does show how even the most empowered of political figures is magnetically drawn to donning the mantle of the victim.
Competitive complaining is the sport of the moment.
Hillary Clinton appeared at the Women for Women International conference Tuesday. And while taking “absolute personal responsibility” in losing to Donald Trump, she said: “If the election were on Oct. 27, I would be your president.”
That’s the day FBI Director James Comey revealed he was reopening the probe of her State Department emails, which soon ended without a charge of wrongdoing.
Clinton also cited Russian hackers, WikiLeaks, misogyny and a suggested failure of news media to sufficiently hold Trump accountable for his plans for the office.
She said she was proud of the campaign she ran, despite mistakes. For whatever reason, CNN interviewer Christine Amanpour did not risk hisses from the Clinton-friendly audience by enumerating those errors such as “deplorables,” or absences from Wisconsin or Michigan, or other identifiable missteps.
Nor did it become Amanpour’s mission of the moment to delve into just how the email mess developed.
Ordinarily it would be the loser of the race who has dibs on spelling out a case for victimhood.
But despite his election triumph, Trump reacted in a way that sends a message that he deserves consideration as the more aggrieved party.
Trump replied to Clinton’s remarks with his own finger-pointing — though not with the strangeness of his earlier claims about voter fraud, phantom inaugural crowds and secret wiretaps.
“FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!” the president said. “The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?”
This is all about the complaint. The president implies that he gets too little credit for overcoming purportedly unfair obstacles posed for him by this FBI “free pass” and this “phony” Russian-collusion story.
If not for having prevailed in the Electoral College, he seems to say, he would have been a victim.
Nearly 20 years ago, the academic Christopher Lasch wrote: “The victim’ has come to enjoy a certain moral superiority in our society where competing interest groups now ‘vie for the privileged status of victims.’ ”
Today it seems even the most recent banner-carriers of our two mainstream parties fasten on grievance as the stuff of political discussion.