Long before Uber was a spark in the eye of a 20-something, the comeback kid was already disrupting the system and driving his elders crazy. Bill Clinton was the first millennial. Clinton was the kid on the scene in the 90’s, the young handsome Southern governor playing the sax on TV and talking about his underwear. HIS UNDERWEAR, FOR GOD’S SAKE! The Washington establishment thought he was damaging the office of the presidency and had the vapors over the new connotation of “presidential briefs”. Or was it boxers? Well back then, everyone knew which one it was! He changed what was acceptable, and many people thought it was the beginning of the end. And in many ways, it was.
The Clinton era ushered in the beginning of the lowering of the bar of American culture and couth that has led us to where we are today, which is shamefully devoid of couth and culture. Not because he was bad, but because he was so hated by the right. The Gingrich Revolution followed Clinton to Washington as a radical check, to restore balance after this horny little youngster from Arkansas, who was caught in extramarital affairs while Governor, defied the odds and was elected anyway! The dusty old Washington establishment felt threatened by Clinton because he was a very smart politician who challenged the rules. His wife was a feminist laywer. That was unheard of, and it pissed them off royally. And she was sassy to boot. So in came the backlash of Gingrich and his flying monkeys who proceeded to take the Republican party into batshit crazy territory. The angry white Tea Party of the 90’s. The Contract with America was very divisive politics that took us to new lows. The Republicans broke The Water’s Edge Rule for the first time, trash-talking Clinton publicly even while he was abroad. It was about destroying your opponents at all costs. It was the counter balance to the disruption of Bill Clinton. And his smartass wife.
And then, after skating by all those affairs and lies, he gets to Washington and immediately pisses that establishment off by ignoring protocols inviting congressional leaders to the White House, to the inaugural balls, etc. They hated him so much blood ran from their eyes. Opponents didn’t hate Nixon this much, or Reagan, or Johnson, or Carter or either Bush. Oh they were hated by their political foes, but nothing even close to the way that Gingrich declared vitriolic nuclear personal war on Bill Clinton and on the American system. By challenging it in a way that would begin to give challengers a short cut, by being on the offense and putting the other side on defense, and by being willing to destroy your opponent personally, he found a winning combination that has become the tragic norm in the U.S. today.
Clinton beat them at every turn, which just made them angrier and angrier. His opponents were so mad that they impeached him for having an affair even while Gingrich was… uh, having an affair. And even at that, Clinton clung to his bible and waited them out until the public grew tired of the spectacle. He took Republican’s proposals and made them his own. He beat them at every turn. He innovated. He reverse engineered. He developed the first human apps.
Clinton was ahead of his time, which drove the establishment utterly insane and paved the way for the poisonous atmosphere that dominates the country today. It would take FOX a couple of decades to gaslight the red state conservatives and it took the technology of social media to divide us into tribes. But here we are still struggling with that philosophy of personal destruction and as a result our government is in tatters. As is the truth. We’re almost to that scene at the end of The Planet of the Apes where Charleston Heston runs across the remains of the Statue of Liberty on the beach. But the first scene of this tragic movie began with Bill and Hillary pissing Republicans off so much, that they’d go on to destroy our democracy just to get even with them.