machine politics
Why the Clintons Won’t Go Away

In Vanity Fair, T.A. Frank exhorts elite American liberals in the strongest possible terms to resist their obvious temptation to turn Chelsea Clinton into a political item:

Amid investigations into Russian election interference, perhaps we ought to consider whether the Kremlin, to hurt Democrats, helped put Chelsea Clinton on the cover of Variety. Or maybe superstition explains it. Like tribesmen laying out a sacrifice to placate King Kong, news outlets continue to make offerings to the Clinton gods. In The New York Times alone, Chelsea has starred in multiple features over the past few months: for her tweeting (it’s become “feisty”), for her upcoming book (to be titled She Persisted), and her reading habits (she says she has an “embarrassingly large” collection of books on her Kindle). With Chelsea’s 2015 book, It’s Your World, now out in paperback, the puff pieces in other outlets—Elle, People, etc.—are too numerous to count.

Read Frank’s piece for a thorough accounting of why continuing to indulge Chelsea Clinton’s escalating bids for publicity would be a catastrophic mistake. But there’s a more fundamental question it doesn’t answer: Why is this happening? What is the constituency for a Chelsea Clinton political career? What is the apparently unstoppable force of nature thrusting her onto magazine covers and broadcasting her progressive-word-generator Twitter proclamations?

The answer is that even though Hillary Clinton lost two elections, the Clinton machine—the one the family has been building ever since Bill left office in 2001—is still very much in place. Walter Russell Mead described it like this during the 2016 primaries: “The machine gathers the cash that provides perches and incomes to Clinton loyalists; the loyalists keep the publicity machine pumping, keep the networks of contacts and patronage refreshed throughout the vast Clinton network, and staff what amounts to a permanent campaign. This is what party machines used to do: provide incomes for the army of operatives who would jump into action to make sure the machine stayed in office.”

The loyalists who make up this apparatus want—or even need—for the gears to keep spinning. And for that, the machine needs to offer the promise of future influence. Otherwise, donations to the Clinton Foundation would dry up; speaking engagements would become less lucrative; Clinton-backed spin organizations would wither; and dozens of jobs would disappear. All this is to say that the strange persistence of Chelsea boosterism does not come out of nowhere; it is the product of a supremely well-organized political organization revving its engines. And it will not be shut down voluntarily.

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