Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hillary's post-Potomac strategy is creepy and wrong...

Hillary Clinton's post-Potomac push provides proof positive that she shouldn't receive the Democratic nomination.

Yes, I'm aware that I went overboard with the alliteration.

Her standing as the "inevitable candidate" has eroded and she's now trailing Barack Obama in pledged delegates. In order to force a close final tally, she's focusing her efforts on Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. She doesn't have a choice, really. Those three delegate-rich states are her only apparent hope in that department.

You can't fault Hillary for holing up in Ohio (which seems to share "center of the political universe" standing with Florida over the past several years).

You can't argue that going after Pennsylvania is a bad move.

It's easy to understand why Texas may play host to a Clintonized version of the Alamo.

The three-state gambit is unavoidable.

The Democrats' proportional delegate distribution system, however, makes things very tough for Hillary. She can't just win those states--she has to win them big. It's becoming increasingly clear that she's unlikely to muster three landslides. That's why her overall strategy includes a few other wrinkles. These additional Clinton efforts provide clear evidence of why Hillary Clinton is an undesirable candidate.

Florida & Michigan

The Florida and Michigan state parties decided they wanted to move up their primaries to attract additional attention and to increase the significance of their states' electorates in choosing the presidential nominee. When they floated the idea to Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee big shots, they received a big thumbs down. The DNC told the states that they could do whatever the hell they wanted, but that a schedule change would result in a harsh penalty--the state delegations wouldn't get a seat at the national convention.

At first, I figured Dean was all bluster but it soon became clear that the DNC meant business. Florida and Michigan fully understood that early primaries would eliminate the states' influence at the national convention. The FL and MI crews went ahead with the date change anyway and candidates were advised to skip campaigning in the rogue states.

Obama (and Edwards) yanked their names off the Michigan ballot completely, an act encouraged by the DNC. Clinton kept her name on the books. No one campaigned there. In Florida, both Obama and Clinton appeared on the ballot and both candidates steered clear of the Sunshine state. Yes, there was a question about an Obama ad that appeared on some Florida televisions (apparently an unavoidable element of a larger media buy). Yes, Hillary "made her presence known" without campaigning as the Florida election approached. Overall, though, both basically ignored Florida, a delegate-less contest that lacked DNC approval. Hillary "won" both states.

Now, we could argue whether the DNC's punishment fit the crime. They could have went with a Republican compromise (the date change thing wasn't just a D issue this year) and seated only a percentage of the usual delegation. They could have negotiated some other settlement. The fact remains, however, that they did not. Florida and Michigan did what they did knowing that the early dates reduced their elections to the level of mere "beauty contests".

The candidates knew it, too. They didn't fight for votes in Michigan or Florida. Clinton didn't make appearances. Obama didn't give speeches. Hillary herself said that the contests didn't matter because there were no delegates at stake. No one ran campaign ads. Voters understood that, too. They realized that their participation would have no impact on the nomination process.

They were two meaningless elections without substance producing results that had no impact on the nomination process. It's tough to say that because real people did show up at real polls to cast real ballots, but the end results of the exercises are beyond tainted in terms of reflecting the actual positions of the states' electorates. We don't know how and if campaigning would've made a difference. We don't know how many people stayed home who would've otherwise turned out. We don't know if the unique circumstances surrounding the no-delegate elections influenced participants or if either candidates' supporters were more or less likely than the other's to bother voting in a mere exhibition match. You simply cannot take those results seriously. The gap between "come vote for a Presidential nominee" and "come vote just for the hell of it" is just too big.

This morning, however, Hillary is losing the national delegate count and she has two "wins" in the forbidden zone. That's why part of her last-ditch effort involves rallying support for the bankrupt idea of sitting the FL and MI delegations based on the beauty pageant results. That's right, the same Hillary who dismissed those renegade primaries as meaningless has now decided they should matter.

The fact that Clinton is pushing to seat delegations from states who clearly acted in violation of the DNC's mandate and didn't have "real elections" as we generally understand them is sick opportunism at best. In the process of advocating this kind of stupidity, she's also making a complete turnaround on her earlier position. It's a daily double: mendacity and hypocrisy!

The merits of the argument, however, are much less important to Clinton than the end result of winning the argument. If she could get the DNC to seat the delegations based on the tainted election returns, she gets much-needed delegates. So what if doing so is a complete pile of hogwash. It's the result that matters. The intellectual dishonesty is a moot point. The hypocrisy is insignificant. Recognizing the DNC's authority to organize the process by which it selects a candidate? Yawn. It's all about getting Hillary the delegates, baby.

Hatin' on the Caucuses

I personally think the superdelegate element of the Democratic nomination process is a grotesque abomination designed entirely to help those who already have authority within the party maintain their positions of power. That being said, it's also a ground rule for this year. It was in place before the process started and although I'd love to see it changed for the next cycle, it's not really up for debate at the moment.

It just so happens that the superdelegate component of the convention may offer more more hope for Hillary than Barack. Most indicators hint at a Clinton lead in superdelegates and her longer history as a party icon definitely won't hurt her as she tries to recruit more support.

As an Obama-backer, I should be all pissy about the way Hillary is winning the super delegate race. I should be pissed off that she's sending her daughter out on breakfast dates with supers (sort of like political daughter-pimping, huh?). I should be dismayed that Madeline Albright is calling state party activists on the phone like old pals, trying to sway supers toward Hillary. Shit, even Big Bill is working the phones on this one. I should be UPSET.

I'm not. We should change the process and decrease the potential power of the super delegates in tight elections, but I (and everyone else in the world) knew about it before things got rolling this year. It's a ground rule. Just like an absence of Michigan and Florida voters is a ground rule.

Obama has people making calls, too. He's also trying to persuade the superdelegates to vote baed on the wider election results and/or on the individual states' results. I don't know whether he'll get mileage out of that or not, but he's certainly entitled to make the argument. In the end, the supers will vote for the candidate of their choice and we can only hope they won't fuck up.

What does this super delegate thing have to do with "hatin' on the caucases"? Well, in an effort to persuade supers to back Hillary, she's arguing that they should look past the results in caucus states--or at least take them with a grain of salt:

"Mrs. Clinton’s aides said they would also argue to superdelegates that they should give less deference to a lead from Mr. Obama because much of that had been built up in states where there were caucuses, which tend to attract far fewer voters than primaries, where Mrs. Clinton has tended to do better than she has done in caucuses."

I'm not a political mathemetician, so I don't know if we can project what primary turn out would've been like compared to actual caucus turnout in many states this year. I do, however, know that an assload of people showed up (I believe the term is "record turnout") at many of the Obama-won caucuses this year.

I also remember someone with the initials HC yelling about "this is how the west was won" and explaining the significance of her primary win in Nevada to anyone who'd listen back in January. Remember that meaningless Nevada caucus? The one with the Hillary campaign-supported lawsuits? The one where Bill and Chelsea were wandering around casinos glad-handing people and acting like it was the Biggest Moment in American Political History? Yeah, that one. "This is how the west was won" but winning the west, it seems, no longer means shit. It was a caucus. No biggie. (I suppose that sunk in with Clinton when the math showed she lost the delegate count by one, huh?)

Mark Penn, a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, and the only guy in the room crazy enough to even breathe the name "Walter Mondale" during a campaign conference call, took advantage of a few seconds when at least one of his feet wasn't in his mouth to utter:

“I think for superdelegates, the quality of where the win comes from should matter in terms of making a judgment about who might be the best general election candidate”.

Apparently my Kansas caucus doesn't measure up to Penn's standards. The quality of our caucus doesn't rival the polls of Virginia and their non-caucus primar--oh shit, she got her ass kicked there, too, didn't she?

Yes, it's true. Hillary has done better in "line up at the polls" states than in caucus states. That's true. A good portion of that success, however, is probably more attributable to the nature of the states in question and the campaigns conducted in those states than it is to the actual methodology of decision making. Pretending as if it makes sense for supers to look down their Democratic noses at caucuses and the caucus-goers who attend them is pure silliness.

And this whole thing about supers choosing based on the best general election candidate... Mark, have you checked the Obama/McCain poll numbers lately? They're better than the Hillary/McCain numbers. Signficantly.

The Point of this Diatribe

I understand fighting to prevail in the face of massive obstacles. Hillary is fighting and I can respect that. I can understand and appreciate digging three foxholes (TX, OH, PA) and doing battle until the bitter end. I'm down with that, Hillary.

However, doing contortionist mental gymnastics in an effort to rationalize the seating of the Florida and Michigan delegations doesn't play. It's nothing more than desperate opportunism. It's stinky, cheap and just the kind of behavior one doesn't want out of a President or a presidential candidate. It's beneath me and the party. It should be beneath you, too, Hillary. But it isn't. That says something.

Denigrating the caucus states in an effort to sway superdelegates is also a pile of crap. It's amazing that Clinton supporters play the "disenfranchisement" card in an effort to seat FL and MI, while Hillary is trying to woo supers by minimizing the value and meaning of caucus results. Hey, the superdelegates are out there and they're fair game. But is pissing on caucus states really the best way to get the job done? It's also a little creepy coming from someone who lauded the Iowa caucuses as a wonderful thing when they were criticized and was (temporarily) downright giddy about the Nevada caucus process. This new angle on persuading supers is sad.


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1 comment:

  1. "However, doing contortionist mental gymnastics in an effort to rationalize the seating of the Florida and Michigan delegations doesn't play. It's nothing more than desperate opportunism. It's stinky, cheap and just the kind of behavior one doesn't want out of a President or a presidential candidate. It's beneath me and the party. It should be beneath you, too, Hillary. But it isn't. That says something."

    Exactly. It's so fuckin' lame.

    George Will had a clever take on Hillary today:

    "It must be wearisome. But surely people are 'all the time' pestering her about being so substantive. It is a stronger word; she should tweak her fable in future tellings."

    Yeah, the whole fuckin' thing is so lame. Treating this process like it doesn't mean anything except to get a "w" in your column. Stinks like a certain other Republican win in 2000 that I can think of. And it reinforces both peoples' cynicism and apathy that their vote and participation doesn't matter anyway.

    I don't have some self-righteous notion that Hillary is a bad person for all of this. I did it far too many times in debate rounds and forensics rounds when I competed, sadly. I just don't think it should be rewarded and I think if you have someone being more honest, they should get the nod.

    If, as George implies, Hillary really was more substantive in her policy thought - another particularly galling and bullshit claim right after the experience claim; what both of them equate with is that Hillary is more left and more enamoured with what your country can do for you than what you can do for your country - I probably would be less annoyed by the whole business, even as I would still think it was bullshit. But the fact that I don't see that she is particularly substantive in terms of original ideas that really get underneath a lot of the problems the country faces AND she keeps making all these bullshit arguments designed around her winning while pretending the whole time that there is really something more noble involved AND tearing down a guy who, while I have my disagreements with him, really DOES have more noble purposes in mind, I think is all just too much for me most days as I follow Hillary coverage.

    The more I watch that campaign, the more I think that that dynamic duo really needs to sit it out for a couple of years and think, for awhile, about what they may be responsible for that has all these people pissed off at them. I am convinced, at this point, that they both just wade far too knee deep in their own bullshit, these days, that they just can't imagine that their critics might have a point or two. Especially Bill, who just seems particularly full of himself, lately.

    If I ever start getting like this or I am like this now, John, will you make sure to bitch slap me or at least tell me if you think I'm being an ass? Because, while I know that I have acted this way far too much in my life, I cannot imagine doing so with the whole world watching thinking, "What a fucking asshole!" and not catching a clue. I've done that plenty before in my life and it's never something to be proud of.

    I like these two. And if they weren't constantly tearing down a guy who I think actually offers, by my lights, stronger if flawed leadership, they probably wouldn't bother me so much, these days. But they do because they're both just being such royal assholes, these days, and acting like it's all about the win, even if the stakes are too high for that kind of bullshit prancing around acting like it's the real deal.

    And the writing is on the walls for Democrats. Obama is the stronger candidate, by all of the objective evidence of what will generate a stronger likelihood of victory in a general election, by a seemingly genuine commitment to the ideas that animate that objective fact of democratic elections and, at the very least and much more important to me, a much more open-minded and open-ended process at arriving at those ideas, and by the polls that follow those objective qualities.

    Having Obama on the ticket doesn't decide all of the tough questions the country faces. What it does, I think, is make the discussion more honest, more interesting, and, ironically for the Clinton campaign, I believe, more substantive. I don't say that just to boost Obama. I really think he is the more substantive candidate among Democrats. His answer on how to handle rogue regimes in those debates convinced me of that. This is a guy willing to explore new and potentially better ideas. And you can tell that it is the thinking rather than the laundry list of policy proposals - all of which cost money for a Federal government with a deficit going on 10 trillion dollars and interest on the debt going on 1/2 a trillion dollars - and are a part of a broader conversation about what responsibilities the Federal government and government, generally, should be taking on and should not be taking on given those and other important political, economic and cultural realities.

    I don't agree with Obama, from where he stands now, on all of those questions, at this point. But I trust him more in that conversation.

    And that matters to me.