Another penetrating column by Bret Stephens. Excerpts:
All of which means that Mrs. Clinton’s presidential bid is an exercise in—and a referendum on—cynicism, partly hers but mainly ours. Democrats who nominate Mrs. Clinton will transform their party into the party of cynics; an America that elects Mrs. Clinton as its president will do so as a nation of cynics. Is that how we see, or what we want for, ourselves?
This is what the 2016 election is about. You know already that if Mrs. Clinton runs for president as an Elizabeth Warren-style populist she won’t mean a word of it, any more than she would mean it if she ran as a ’90s-style New Democrat or a ’70s-style social reformer. The real Hillary, we are asked to believe, is large and contains multitudes.
The allusion is to Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" in Leaves of Grass wherein we find on p. 96 of the Signet Classic edition the lines:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
You may recall that a copy of Leaves of Grass was a gift Bill Clinton gave to Monica Lewinsky. The meaning of that I will leave you to ponder. Back to Stephens:
Cynicism is the great temptation of modern life. We become cynics because we desperately don’t want to be moralists, and because earnestness is boring, and because skepticism is a hard and elusive thing to master. American education, by and large, has become an education in cynicism: Our Founders were rank hypocrites. Our institutions are tools of elite coercion. Our economy perpetuates privilege. Our justice system is racist. Our foreign policy is rapacious. Cynicism gives us the comfort of knowing we won’t be fooled again because we never believed in anything in the first place. We may not be born disabused and disenchanted, but we get there very quickly.
This is the America that the Clintons seek to enlist in their latest presidential quest. I suspect many Democrats would jump at an opportunity not to participate in the exercise—it’s why they bolted for Barack Obama in 2008—and would welcome a credible primary challenger. (Run, Liz, Run!) But they will go along with it, mostly because liberals have demonized the Republican Party to the point that they have lost the capacity for self-disgust. Anything—anyone—to save America from a conservative judicial appointment.
As for the rest of the country, Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy offers a test: How much can it swallow? John Podesta and the rest of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign team must be betting that, like a python devouring a goat, Americans will have ample time to digest Mrs. Clinton’s personal ethics.