BROOKLYN, NY — The first thing you notice when you enter Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn is a whiteboard. On it, Rendon Lau, Hillary’s chief digital strategist, wrote these words on day one of the campaign:
– Loyalty Matters
– Keep Calm
– Loyalty. Always Loyalty.
This mantra sums up what Hillaryland is all about. Her team is known for keeping their cool when faced with setbacks, like Bernie Sanders’ New Hampshire victory. And Hillary’s subordinates, her staffers, and even her rank-and-file volunteers are fiercely loyal, nearly to the point of laying down their own lives for the cause of electing the first female President.
I get a taste of that ferocious loyalty the second I walk in, when I am met with a sea of angry stares. After a handful of staffers briskly walk past me, spitting on the ground before my feet, I look down and realize that I’m sticking out like a sore thumb. Everyone but me is wearing the iconic Ready For Her shirts and H Arrow jewel pins that mark them as bona fide members of Team Hillary.
Before I have a chance to feel shame, I find myself being kissed on both cheeks in what I recognize to be the European style of greeting.
“Caaaarl. Mister Diggler. Welcome to Brooklyn.”
It’s my old friend Huma Abedin, Hillary confidante and vice chair of the campaign.
“Actually,” I reply, “I’m from Brooklyn. I live a few blocks a—”
“So kind of you to make the journey, Carl. We so look forward to your feature about Hillary’s viral wins for BuzzFeed.”
“Ummm, about that, I actually work for this start-up called CAFE—”
“Yes, yes, a café, we will get you one. With leche? But first you must meet the rest of Hillary’s brain trust.”
Huma ushers me into a plush conference room deep inside the bowels of the building where some of Hillary’s top lieutenants are having a meeting.
“Everyone, this is Mister Carl Diggler, and he is here to tell the story of our inspiring campaign in 2 Broke Girls gifs for BuzzFeed.”
“Excellent! Yes! That is just the sort of buzzworthy content that will improve our penetration into the single 18-26-year-old female demo,” says Norm Edison, the campaign’s social media director.
“These wayward young ladies will return to our fold once they’ve seen that we too speak their language of emojis and bae,” declares Rendon Lau, the aforementioned whiteboard-loving chief digital strategist. “A strong hand governs a wayward sheep. Great rules make a great society.”
With greying sideburns, the 44-year-old Rendon carries himself with the stony confidence of a tribal chieftain. A war survivor, he is a natural leader who commands loyalty and respect. The bespectacled Norm, ten years Rendon’s junior, is the more excitable and outspoken of the workgroup. His leg constantly trembles, perhaps a sign of his boundless energy or his constant anxiety on Hillary’s behalf.
Overlooking the pair of online whizzes from the head of the table sits 71-year-old Maester Pike, an old Democratic hand and wizened messaging guru installed by the campaign to oversee the digital team. Maester is a longtime Clinton ally since Bill’s first campaign in Little Rock, and although he made his bones before the internet was even invented, his loyalty has been rewarded with a lofty position in New Media. Always Loyalty.
Stroking his spindly long white beard, Maester smiles at me warmly beneath his flame of silver hair.
Although these staffers seem to have the wrong idea of why I’m here (I’m actually just looking for someone to comment on the paid Bernie Bro online harassment gang I uncovered) I’m nevertheless touched by their enthusiasm.
“Yep, that’s me, Carl Diggler, BuzzFeed reporter and Millennial-whisperer,” I proclaim as I scoot into an empty curule chair.
I pull out my reporter’s notebook. “So, Rendon, Norm, tell me more about Hillary’s challenges with Millennial women.”
Rendon clenches his teeth but Norm bites.
“Carl, there’s no problem. Hillary, our Leader, is beloved by women and men of all ages. To Baby Boomers who lived through the 90s, Leader Hillary is a fighter for gender equality and keeping welfare people off drugs. To Millennials, she’s a meme-savvy woke warrior who knows all of the young people dances and might even bust a few moves on the daytime talk shows.”
“Absolutely,” I say, ever the coy observer.
“Hillary has faced scum and madmen since day one,” Rendon says, confidently. “Any other candidate would be justified to unleash the forces of hell on these madmen. Their camps should be airholed, with logic. You should be able to sail a boat through the blood spilled by those who stood against her, metaphorically. Carl, we both survived wars. We know this truth—”
“What Rendon says is totally correct—” Norm interjects.
“Then I will say it. Where I grew up, there was order. You obeyed your elder who knew better. I will make sure you understand the chain of command if you misunderstand this again.” Rendon carries himself with the air of the competent manager who knows that while you may be friends, the campaign comes first. Norm swallows and nods, keeping his eyes on his trembling lap.
Without warning, a smartly dressed young intern enters.
“Salute your superiors, child,” Rendon says.
“Yes sir!” the twentysomething barks. “I have some bad news. Eliza Dushku, of Buffy the Vampire fame, and Everlast have endorsed Bernie.”
There’s a loud crashing sound. I instinctively cover my ears (I am a former POW). When I come to, I see Rendon has slammed a hole through the conference table. Norm is cradling his head in his hands, swaying. Huma is gnashing her teeth and wailing at the sky. Maester is smiling, enjoying the show.
“We were betrayed again. Why do they betray us? Why?” Norm cries.
“This is a bad omen, but not all is lost,” mutters Huma. “If Dushku moved before Super Tuesday, it would have kneecapped us. We’re alright. We’re alright.”
“Everlast has always been racist,” Maester says, eerily calm. Without warning, an uninterrupted stream of racial slurs spew from his mouth, completely without emotions. Huma and Norm join, and it seems to ease their sorrow. Rendon, however, abstains.
“Enough,” he commands. The hateful chant stops. “The betrayal continues. Eliza Dushku will pay when Hillary ascends as the uniting leader of this nation. She, in fact, should pray to her false god that Hillary wins, for her punishment will reflect the dreams she robbed from millions of women with her careless choices. Everlast will be dealt with now. But first, a warning shot for Dushku. Safeties off, aim.”
Norm takes out his phone and composes a Tweet.
“Wow, really disappointing from Eliza Dushku. I guess she slays progress, not vampires #gender #daughter.”
Rendon slaps the phone out of Norm’s hand.
“Fool! Buffy was the real slayer! We must reinforce this.”
“How about something about how she internalized sexism like a human internalizes vampirism,” offers Huma.
Rendon drops to one knee.
“God has granted you wisdom. I proudly fight with you as a Phoenician Knight for Her.”
Norm picks up his phone and begins again.
“Disappointing from #ElizaDushku. I guess a misogynist vampire bit her on the neck. Feel bad for my #daughter,” Norm’s new Tweet reads.
“FIRE!” shouts Rendon.
“What of the Everlast?” says Maester, calmly.
“We are on Protocol Red Zero, that’s two celebrity counter-endorsements. I am cleared for Mission Azul,” Rendon says with fiery purpose in his eyes.
“You know the rules then,” Maester croaks solemnly.
“If I am captured pursuing this scum, I will swallow the pill. Godspeed to you all.”
The meeting adjourns for an hourlong lunch break. When I get back to the conference room, my belly full of chicken fries and Sanka, I find Rendon sitting alone in the dark, his hands and mouth covered with thick red barbecue sauce.
“You try that new cajun-Thai BBQ fusion place down the street?” I say, wielding my knowledge of local cuisine to ingratiate myself.
“Yes,” says Rendon, staring off at nothing in particular. “I have tasted the crimson.”
“Have a seat, Carl. I want to show you something.”
As Norm, Huma, and Maester file in, Rendon hits play on his laptop. I’m greeted by a crisp, upbeat electronic jazz song.
“This is our secret weapon, Carl. As you know, the rapper Killer Michael and his misogynist hip hop-style songs have been a thorn in our side. This is our response. Off the record, of course. As a journalist at BuzzFeed, I feel comfortable playing this to you. I can trust your honor.”
After a half-minute intro the lyrics kick in, and to my surprise it’s Rendon doing a rap.
I may not rock the beat like Michael our pal
But I’m here making history with our number one gal
If you’re sick of whitesplaining and want Libya to listen up
There’s only one candidate to whom I’ll toast my cup
“This is our secret weapon to neutralize Killer Michael,” Rendon explains. “Hillary, the light over the Potomac, our one true President, is already crushing the usurper Bernie among black voters. This, as they call it, ‘diss track,’ will be the final nail in his coffin.”
Hillary is who we want with her finger on the trigga —
Norm turns off the song, right when I was getting really into it.
“Do you challenge me, Norman?” Rendon shouts. “I always took you for a weakling. You with your pathetic lack of martial talent, you who have never even lived through a war much less served in one, you are not fit to serve Hillary even in the break room with the coffee mug maids.”
“No, Rendon, I… I didn’t challenge you. I just think this song is a bad idea.”
Maester takes out a oxhide drum from under the table and starts rhythmically pounding it with his hands.
“You have already challenged me, fool, with your deeds if not your words. No coward can say he is truly Ready for Her. Pull out your phone, and we shall settle this.”
“Rendon, not like this.”
“Pull out your phone or surrender it in disgrace!”
Rendon and Norm take out their iPhones and start composing tweets.
“Witness this closely, Carl. Memes will be made of my victory this day.”
I take a peek at Rendon’s screen. I see the reflection of fire in his eyes as he forges these Tweets:
“[email protected] Interesting that you say you’re #ReadyForHer, but not ready for hip hop songs about her. Try harder. #Sigh”
“People who say they’ll pledge their loyalty to you but are too afraid to do certain tasks #gender #disappointment.”
“While #BernieBros #harass feminists, #HillaryMen are handcuffed from making music against them #bad.”
“I know my friend @HarlemMase wouldn’t be offended if I said certain things in a song.”
I rush over to Norm’s phone, where he’s desperately calling in reinforcements.
“Getting attacked for being an intersectional feminist ally, and nobody is helping me. I don’t even know why I try sometimes…”
“In the middle of a #TweetStorm and none of my 8,000 followers can be bothered to lift a finger to defend me. So this is what the movement is like nowadays. Great.”
“[email protected] @ev @jack FIX THIS.”
Norm is on the edge of exhaustion. He’s getting dizzy, swaying with each beat of the drum like a punch-drunk boxer about to collapse in the face of Rendon’s fusillade of cyberbullying. As a cyberbullying survivor, I’ve seen this look before. It’s the look of a man who’s been utterly destroyed by the Bernie Bros, a man who’s had the life sucked out of him by mean Tweets and is about to become a steaming husk. I see this look, and I get scared.
The drumbeat grows louder, faster. Huma and Maester are cackling with glee. I open my mouth to yell “Enough! Leave him!” but before I can, another smartly-dressed intern rushes into the room. This one salutes.
“I bring terrible news. Saturday Night Live alum Chris Kattan has just endorsed Senator Sanders. It’s all over cable TV.”
I hear two loud bangs and am instantly covered in dust. My head darts to my left, where Rendon has a handgun pointed at the sky. He has a look of pure hatred in his eyes.
“Purple protocol. Alpha bravo. Mow the grass till the snakes are visible. Man all stations NOW,” he shouts.
People are sprinting all over the hip Brooklyn workspace. I see tears in their eyes as they rush to their iMacs, ready to heed Rendon’s commands.
“Also, woman all stations. Let’s remember, we’re with her!” Norm says meekly above the chaos.
“You have undermined me, Norman.”
“All I said was–“
“The snake opens his mouth only to feed.“
I can’t save Norm from Rendon. He’s just too dedicated to the campaign. His entire being is ready for her, and it terrifies me. As I feel sweat pool in the areas behind my knees, I make a dash for the door.
“Rendon–no!” I hear Norm cry out. There’s nothing I could have done for him. Chris Kattan wrought horror today.
The war will get worse before it gets better. Pity this nation.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at [email protected] or Tweet to @carl_diggler.
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