Are you finally with her? The Hillary Clinton paradox

Ignore Hillary Clinton at your own peril

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published April 9, 2024 5:31AM (EDT)

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Once again, Hillary Clinton is absolutely correct.

During an interview last Monday on the "Tonight Show," host Jimmy Fallon asked Clinton the following question: “I mean, it's Biden versus Trump. What do you say to voters who are upset that those are the two choices?"

Clinton responded:

You know, it’s kind of like, one is old and effective and compassionate, has a heart and really cares about people; and one is old and has been charged with 91 felonies. I don’t understand why this is even a hard choice. Really. I don’t understand it. But we have to go through the election and, hopefully, people will realize what’s at stake because it’s an existential question: What kind of country we're going to have, what kind of democracy we're going to have [it is] pretty clear about what kind of country they want . . . Get out there and vote."

Clinton’s warning to the disinterested and fence-sitters, that they need to get in the fight and stop engaging in purity tests and searching for the non-existent perfect candidate regarding their decision to vote for President Biden, is still needed. A large number of Americans are politically disengaged and still refuse to understand (or perhaps even care) that Trump and his MAGA people and the larger antidemocracy movement are an extreme danger to the country. Even worse, there is a large percentage of Americans — Trump followers, “independents,” and undecided voters — who have convinced themselves that the horrible Trump presidency, with its mass death from COVID, ruined economy and coup attempt, was “the good old days” and yearn to return to them.

Greg Sargent explains in a recent essay at The New Republic:

Some new polling from a top Democratic pollster finds mixed news for Team Biden on this front: Large swaths of voters appear to have little awareness of some of Trump’s clearest statements of hostility to democracy and intent to impose authoritarian rule in a second term, from his vow to be “dictator for one day” to his vague threat to enact “termination” of provisions in the Constitution.

This is but the most recent example of Hillary Clinton telling uncomfortable truths about the existential danger embodied by Donald Trump and his MAGA coalition. She has personal experience with Trump and his allies’ capacity for skullduggery and evil. Trump has continued to publicly threaten Clinton’s safety. Given Trump’s promises to be America’s first dictator and his attraction to violence and other pathological behavior, Clinton knows that she must take him and his followers very seriously. (Never forget that Trump infamously threatened Clinton in 2016 with “2nd Amendment people.”)

Clinton’s warning to the disinterested and fence-sitters, that they need to get in the fight and stop engaging in purity tests and searching for the non-existent perfect candidate regarding their decision to vote for President Biden, is still needed.

To that point, as detailed by Gabriel Sherman in a new must-read article at Vanity Fair, Donald Trump is much closer to winning the 2024 election than many members of the news media and general public would like to admit.

Ultimately, this yearning for Donald Trump to become President of the United States for a second time is a symptom of a deep malaise and sickness in American culture and society where it appears that tens of millions (if not more) people have a collective compulsion towards self-destruction. This is very common behavior in a society that is experiencing multiple crises and does not have the maturity or capacity to process its death anxieties in a healthy and productive way.

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As I try to make sense of this sick yearning and poisoned nostalgia, I have been returning to the work of the highly influential social psychologist and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. In a 1973 essay in the New York Times about Fromm’s then-new book,The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness,” Sara Sanborn wrote the following:

Fromm covers much of this ground again, analyzing Heinrich Himmler and Josef Stalin as case studies of the sadist driven by the need to dominate. He also presents a new type of malignant character, the “necrophilous,” which is animated by a desire for sheer destruction. The sadist is not necessarily lethal; since his leading desire is for control, he will want to keep the victim alive. Nor will he necessarily inflict pain, which is merely the logical extreme…of the relationship. The necrophile, however, is driven by a love for all that is dead, destroyed or decaying—or, the author believes, in a modern departure—for what is unalive and purely mechanistic….

Thus American society stands broadly convicted of necrophilia — as opposed to biophilia. And Erich Fromm becomes the 10,000th American writer to remark the mechanization of deathdealing in Vietnam and to note that the selfdestructiveness of drug addiction is not surprising in the youth of lifedenying culture.

Some fifty years later, Fromm’s concerns speak directly to the Trumpocene and how the American people got here and hopefully can escape it before we run out of time.

When I am emailed or otherwise speak with people who tell me that they are principled liberals, progressives or “good lefties”, which in their minds means they cannot in good conscience support President Biden, I have a standard reply. I tell them to make a list of all the issues they purport to care about so much. Look very carefully at the list. There is not one real issue on that list that Donald Trump, his MAGA people and the Republican Party will address in a way that you would like. Moreover, they will make all those things far worse in ways you likely cannot even imagine. Thus, to convince oneself that not voting for Biden is a type of great strategic move and the long game where the Democrats will be forced to adapt after they are defeated in the 2024 election is silly talk to the extreme. Donald Trump will be America’s first dictator; he and his successors will not leave power; burning down the proverbial village in order to save it does not work.

So please listen to Hillary Clinton and the other alarm-sounders this time. They are trying to save the American people and American democracy. But in the end the American people will have to exercise the agency, intelligence, reason, and be responsible enough to save themselves.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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