Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Stop asking what happens if Hillary Clinton gets indicted

... because it won't happen.  Every time I talk about the election, this comes up.  I won't waste much time on why it won't happen, but there is some fascinating political science behind the impulse.  Hey, political science!  Awesome, right?

Let's say I work in an electronics store.  If I tell customers that they can get better deals on better equipment on Amazon, I'm probably violating company policy.  I can be fired, but not indicted.  On the other hand, if I put a credit card skimmer in one of the store's machines and sell the credit card numbers on-line, I can get arrested.  Company policy versus criminal law.  Hillary Clinton's email server ran afoul of some administrative rules in certain circumstances.  Does that tell you something about her?  Yup.  Yesterday, I suggested that it indicated the kind of paranoid impulses that drove Nixon.  That should be relevant when evaluating Hillary Clinton.  But it didn't violate criminal law.  If one of the email dumps shows a trail in which classified information was given to someone who shouldn't have it, then that would be trouble.  Was Clinton stupid enough to do that?  Probably not.  So, the indictment won't happen.

And yet it keeps coming back up.  People are so convinced...  And yet, most people can't really tell you exactly why they think Clinton is so corrupt.  They might blather nonsensically about some speeches to Goldman Sachs (not to name names...), but there is nothing even remotely corrupt about being paid to give speeches.  It's what ex-politicians do, and firms pay for it as a matter of what Thorsten Veblen called "conspicuous consumption."  Yes, I just positively referenced a sociologist.  I'll do penance later.  Basically, though, Goldman Sachs paid a bunch of money to have Clinton show up at an event to show attendees that they had the money to do it.  That's how the lecture circuit works.

Beyond that, there is mostly a vague sense that Clinton simply must be corrupt.  That vague but persistent sense is a demonstration of what Milton Lodge (a political scientist, this time) calls "on-line processing."  No, not computers.  The basic idea is simple.  You hear a piece of information.  You update your assessment of the person involved, and then forget the information itself.  Thus, you keep a running tally of positives and negatives without even remembering the elements that went into the tally.  It is a "heuristic," or, mental short-cut.

Those of us who have been paying attention to the Clintons for decades have heard story after story alleging corruption.  The allegations never go anywhere-- remember that the impeachment was about Bill lying about a blow job-- but the fact that the allegation is made goes into the running tally of corrupt/not-corrupt assessments.

Hillary Clinton has never been indicted.  She will never be indicted.  She has been subjected to more and more lengthy investigations than any politician ever (probably, although I wonder if anyone has ever actually counted).  The old saying goes that a good prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich.  If nobody has managed to indict Hillary Clinton yet, what does that mean?  It means she is either much smarter and more careful than Nixon (obviously a possibility), or the allegations of corruption are overblown, and everyone convinced otherwise is engaged in what Milton Lodge calls "on-line processing."

Hurray for political science!

No comments:

Post a Comment