Sunday, September 10, 2017
Dear Secretary Clinton:
This is in response to what I have been reading and seeing about your attempts to explain the causes of your defeat in the 2016 Presidential election in your recent book. It was only after reading multiple comments on Twitter that Senator Sanders was a major participant in your defeat that I thought a formal response was in order, not to defend Bernie against your attack, but rather to point out what I suddenly realized you did not understand about the event of the election.
First, please understand I had the privilege of voting for Bernie in the primary, then for you in the general election. As a voter, I did not see Bernie’s campaign as mounting some kind of personal attack. Rather, I saw him as doing what all candidates do in the heat of a campaign, finding weaknesses in opponents and using them to win. I did not see that either you or Bernie was doing anything that candidates don’t do under the circumstances. Strategically, that means to me that in the general election whatever then-candidate Trump chose to use from Bernie’s attacks was only normal and business as usual. This does not mean that everything else that happened during the campaign was business as usual from a political point of view. In fact there were a series of extraordinary events that, in my opinion, did conspire against your candidacy.
I will get the known, but ostensibly unproven facts out of the way. There was the influence of Russian collusion in the Trump campaign as well as voter tampering and suppression. There was the influence of FBI Director Comey, who exercised bad judgment during the election in order to get even with you and President Clinton, by reporting a blow-by-blow of an investigation that should have kept under wraps, but was sent out to the world in the main stream media echo-chamber. There is the now-disclosed influence of Russia through Facebook, which involves the passive involvement of Mark Zuckerberg, along with that of Congress that in almost all instances made you look bad and ineffectual. Taking all this in total, you did amazingly well- and YOU WON!!!-except for the Electoral College which is itself an undemocratic institution intended to give the defeated South more political clout. But, what appears to have had the most telling effect on your defeat was Trump himself.
Approaching the topic of Trump, I watched a clip from an interview in which you considered how you might have reacted when he was stalking and hovering over you during the debate. You contemplated how you might have forcefully told him to back up, but that you didn’t respond that way. I would agree that what you did do was your best choice under the circumstances, that is, you stayed on point. Had you done anything else, the media would have painted you (even more) like a shrew and hot-tempered, with a character unsuited for the highest office in the land. But how should you have responded?
What follows is the real point of this letter, since everything presented above is already known. I will consider Trump as a phenomenon, contemplating the characteristics you may have not understood or overlooked, and how you might have responded and may respond still in similar situations.
To begin with, I am a psychologist by trade and also a writer. I say this not only to introduce myself, but also so that you can understand what may appear to be an unusual conceptualization of a difficult problem, that is, how to deal with Trump. When I was in elementary school, I had a dream that now seems prescient. I dreamed that I was sitting in the school auditorium and that every seat was filled with adults. They were sitting, raptly staring at a gargoyle on the stage and, as I looked around, no one was looking anywhere else, except me. I was looking, trying to understand what was going on and what held the people’s attention. I had a similar, but real-life experience in my early twenties. I loved to go to the San Francisco zoo, which was free at the time. (Imagine!) On one of these trips, I passed the chimpanzees, who spent their time outdoors on a concrete platform structure with a moat and fence that kept them away from the public. As I passed, I noticed that my favorite spot was filled with people, men in suits, women with strollers, and others who surrounded and stood close to the fence, staring inside. When I turned to see what they were looking at, I noticed that one of the chimps, an older and larger one, had his hand curled around something on the floor. As I watched away from the rest, I could hear him breathing loudly, then faster, until he began screaming. He swept up the waste he was cradling and ran to the edge of the moat, hurtling his pile at the crowd. I watched as the suited men and mothers with children and babies ran away screaming too, only to turn and approach the fence again, waiting for the next show. The most recent example of this phenomenon would appear to be what are now decades of excrement throwing that quickly reached maturity around the time of your husband’s impeachment. It’s funny to think that, as of this date, he is only the second president to be impeached and with so little cause. But, if the above narrative is to have any meaning, it needs to be understood that President Clinton’s impeachment was not a result of his actions so much as it was part of a media event on a par with adults staring at gargoyles or crowding forward for another show of a chimpanzee throwing shit.
When I was growing up, I had an older brother, now deceased, who was a sociopath with Bipolar Disorder, a bad combination. He took particular delight in messing with my mind in much the same way that Trump (with lots of help) put you in impossible situations that had no adequate response. I am informed by my code of ethics that I cannot ethically diagnose someone that I haven’t personally examined. I find this situation almost funny because I am a skilled diagnostician with decades of experience and I am forced on a daily basis to see the most powerful person in the world acting in a way that is so symptomatic as to make diagnosis obvious. The APA can change their ethics code to allow for torture, but they forbid me to diagnose the most powerful authority who sees no problem with torturing. Thankfully, it is not necessary to diagnose the President in order to understand him and successfully parry.
Of the many things I learned from my brother’s abuse, I learned this. You have to be very clear about your own attitude before you begin to speak, especially in a potentially hostile environment. If you are not clear about what you are presenting and you make a mistake, particularly one that makes you look bad, you have to work harder to be clear about your attitude and what you are presenting for the next time you are in the same position. To achieve this, you need to take the time to consider everyone who is even passively involved in your presentation including the audience so that you can be even clearer about your message and better gauge how to proceed. It remains true that, as long as you consider what you know along with what you don’t know, the unexpected and possible mistakes you might make, you will be better prepared for most exigencies and unexpected circumstances. These rules could have carried you through your primary challenge and it could have helped you in the debates, especially if you took the time to prepare in this way from the very beginning rather than try to control all circumstances, including unanticipated stalkers. You can’t control all circumstances, but what you can control is yourself. More than an intellectual exercise, this is an emotional exercise in which you can assure yourself that you are less likely to get in your own way, but also get out of the way of others’ attacks, that includes Bernie, Trump, and the mainstream media. This is a process, not a goal. It is a form of self-possession that requires a constant state of improvement for everyone.
Looking through this lens, your attempts to understand What Happened should be a lot easier than it seems to be now. Therefore, I am writing this letter.
Wishing you and your family all the best in future.
Julian Lev PhD