Mitt Romney called in to an interview with Breitbart.com yesterday to discuss the heat of the upcoming general election and told his host, “there will be an effort by the quote vast left wing conspiracy to work together to put out their message and to attack me.”
The line, of course is a reference to Hillary Clinton‘s famous assertion in 1998 that the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to impeachment hearings against Bill Clinton was a fabrication, the product of a “vast right wing conspiracy.”
She wasn’t right—the affair was most definitely real. But that doesn’t mean she was wrong. The process by which a shameful (and sure, possibly unforgivable) indiscretion by the president of the United States becomes a nationally televised debacle, with the president himself held up on display for ridicule and scorn by the American people isn’t a simple one. It’s complicated and methodical. It takes effort and coordination, and its goal wasn’t just to make things right for Lewinsky—its goal was to damage the president’s image and cripple the left. It was a conspiracy.
But ins’t that the whole modus operandi of politics? To launch coordinated efforts that make the other side look bad without the public realizing you’ve done it, all while making your side appear benevolent? Propaganda warfare goes at least back to Watergate in the public consciousness, but it’s probably been motivating US politics forever.
Bill Clinton reprised the “vast right wing conspiracy” line in 2009, discussing the racist character attacks on Obama that sought to cast him as an impostor, a fake-American technically disqualified from occupying the presidency. Was Birtherism a right-wing conspiracy? Of course.
But conspiracy isn’t one-sided. As we move into the general election we’ll see a coordinated effort from the left to paint Romney as not only a flip-flopper and a guy whose economic policies most benefit the rich—those are just facts—but also as a guy who is soulless, uncompassionate, even evil.
It’ll unfold with Congresspeople like James Clyburn, who this week compared Romney to a “foreign despot” for keeping money in Swiss bank accounts. It’ll play out on sites like this one that keep running the story about Romney strapping his dog to the roof of his car. And it’ll take place at a million dinner conversations all over the country. For as many of us voters as there are, there are almost none who are truly independent. Even Ron Paul’s supporters have the kind of loyalty that easily leads one to abandon rationality for allegiance.
In that senese, almost all of us are willing conspirators. Is there a vast left wing conspiracy that will attack Mitt Romney? Yep—way vaster than Romney intended. That’s basically all American politics boils down to: Two vast conspiracies, attacking the shit out of each other.