Still With Her: My Ratty Hillary Clinton Hoodie and the Sad Allure of Failure
I don’t like to brag, but I own a lot of shabby, well-worn hoodies in various states of disrepair that don’t really fit me any more because, over time, they got smaller and smaller thanks to many, many washes in hot water and my gut just got bigger. I’ve got a bunch of Phish hoodies, of course, and one for King of Pops and Earwolf but my favorite is also unmistakably my shabbiest.
It’s a big, comfy grey hoodie, size XXL festooned with Hillary Clinton’s famous “I’m With Her” logo and dotted with holes and the kind of deep, dark, dank stains that never come out no matter how often I wash it.
My Hillary Clinton hoodie is so shabby that propriety dictates that I should probably toss it in the garbage. When I wore it in the weeks and months after the election I would get the occasional thumbs up or admiring grin from strangers for reminding them of a more hopeful time and a more inspirational figure. At this point, however, fellow members of the resistance are probably just reminded of the long, agonizing day and night of Hillary’s electoral defeat, a trauma that remains forever fresh in our minds and memories.
Campaign garb has a very specific, time-limited purpose: to allow true believers to become walking billboards for candidates and movements they believe in. They become inherently obsolete the moment the candidate loses. Defeat transforms them into instant period pieces, the kind of oddball ephemera you find in thrift stores, junk shops or odd-smelling consignment shops.
That’s what I love about my Hillary Clinton hoodie. I love that it feels out of time, a relic from an alternate universe where the idealism and hope engendered by the 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee’s half inspirational, half utterly dispiriting campaign burns eternally and wasn’t extinguished by Donald’s shocking, horrifying victory.
I kind of like that my Hillary Clinton hoodie is falling apart. Its physical deterioration echoes the emotional devastation of Hillary’s loss, the way everything just seemed to start to unravel the moment it became clear that a dumb, racist con man, reality TV host and sexual predator’s stupid vanity run for President would somehow defeat that of a woman seemingly born for the highest office in the land, who had worked hard all her life to be in a position to become our first female President.
On a less emotional note, I’m fascinated that even though there was not a 2017 Fyre Festival official merchandise exists for Billy McFarland and Ja Rule’s ill-fated venture all the same and you can find it on Ebay. Talk about your conversation starters!
I also have a tee-shirt for another festival that did not happen for much more banal, reasonable reasons, the 2018 Curveball Festival, which Phish cancelled because the local water treatment center where the festival was to be held was contaminated and consequently its water was not fit for human consumption. Of course you could argue that Phish’s music isn’t fit for human consumption either but that would be wrong because, objectively speaking, Phish is the best.
Obviously I didn’t experience Curveball. Then again, no one else did either. It’s a phantom festival that lives on in tee shirt and hoodie and sticker form even if it never happened in real life.
There’s something inherently fascinating to me about failure, obviously. History is famously written by the winners. I learned that the hard way when I bought ten Make America Great Again hats for the GoFundMe for my 2016 Republican National Convention/Gathering of the Juggalos trip (the one that produced 7 Days in Ohio) thinking that they would become hilarious camp artifacts when Donald Trump was soundly defeated for President and slunk back to the private sector, leaving a thick layer of slime in his wake.
I was wrong. Instead of becoming harmless items of kitsch, MAGA hats became potent, all-too-timely symbols of intolerance and hatred. I came to look at the Make America Great again hits I had purchased, bootleg of course, as cursed items I hoped would be thrown away by the patrons I sent them to rather than worn proudly. As far as I know, ironic MAGA hat-wearing is not a thing that exists.
Truth be told, I was never much of a Hillary Clinton guy. Bernie was my first choice but by the time I entered the ballot box to cast my vote I’d mustered up genuine enthusiasm for the idea of a Hillary Clinton Presidency.
That was of course not to be, but the dream lives on in appropriately degraded form in a hoodie I refuse to let go of. Not unlike Charlton Heston and guns, they’ll have to take my Hillary Clinton hoodie from my cold, dead hands, and I can only imagine how disgusting it’s going to be at that point.
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