The 2012 election was relatively muted on this front, so many may have forgotten how bad the right gets during the campaign season. The strategy is what I call the “scandal a day” strategy: Every day they dig up something, no matter how silly or inconsequential, to get completely hepped up over in hopes that the mainstream media will pick it up. It doesn’t matter if 90% or 95% of the crap they get worked up over is ignored. As long as they can get some of these stories into the media, they can create the illusion of scandal where none exists, or at least make the public so tired of hearing the target’s name that they decline to turn out for elections.
There is no rhyme or reason to which stories get picked up by the media. If it’s a slow news day, it might be something as minor as this whole Hillary-did-something-at-Chipotle nonsense. Because of this, the process has become a very lazy one for right wingers. If they hit a slow news day, they can create a national scandal out of how someone parts her hair, so why bother actually trying to find real dirt? That’s how the right managed to make a few jokes I made on a blog a national scandal when I was working for John Edwards but somehow they completely missed his secret love child and had to rely on the National Enquirer to give that one to them. After the campaign was over. The right wing scandal machine is a peculiar combination of tireless and lazy. They grind away day and night coming up with hourly “scandals” to get angry about, but can’t be bothered to do more than just look at whatever is on TV and get mad about that. But it works, because the process exploits the cable news and now internet grind, where there always has to be something to chatter about. If they keep dumping talking points into the void, some are going to hit.
This process gets uglier when a Clinton is in the mix, because the Clintons are really the people that conservatives perfected this strategy with. A lot of people blame the Clintons for this—their secretiveness, their above-it-all behavior—but while that doesn’t help, it’s not really the reason. It’s a timing thing. The Clinton campaign was the first of the cable news era and the Clinton presidency was the first time that conservatives realized that need to fill the 24/7 news cycle made mainstream journalists more willing to talk about faux scandals than they would be if their only barometer was whether or a story actually mattered. So really, it’s Pavlovian. Conservatives see a Clinton and feel a powerful nostalgia for when they first realized that they could simply bullshit “scandals” into being by exploiting this weakness in the media system. You never forget your first and all that. (That’s why so many of them wax poetic about the impeachment, even though it was actually a political disaster for Republicans. The thrill of getting such a big hit just creates that powerful a nostalgia for conservatives.) So it’s less a “scandal a day” and more a “scandal an hour”. And some will hit, not because of quality, but because this is a numbers game.
Because of all this, rest assured, the Clinton-did-something-at-a-Chipotle “scandal” is just the first of roughly 1 million of these. For the next 18 months, we’re going to hear about how Clinton is evil because she uses 6 toilet paper squares instead of 5 and because her pet’s name offends Catholic bishops or because angry old white men don’t like some hairstyle she had in the 70s. Because that’s the peculiar nature of the lazy but tireless right wing scandal churn.