As the undead corpse of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign keeps
stubbornly shambling towards Denver, her remaining supporters --- the
ones who still think she can be in it to win it --- are easy to
understand. We've seen blind fanatics before. Her would-be enablers
are harder to figure out. These are the folks who acknowledge that
she has no realistic chance at securing the nomination, but urge
nevertheless that the campaign be treated with a respect which it hasn't
deserved for over a month. But what might that mean, in the light of
the campaign's own behavior?
The controversy of the moment has been the disposition of convention
delegates from Florida and Michigan, two states which tried to move
primaries before dates set by a party committee, and were told they'd
suffer the drastic penalty of seating no delegates at all. The upshot
in Michigan was particularly farcical, with all major candidates
except Clinton acceding to a DNC request that they take their names
off the ballot, leaving a primary "election" where the voters were
offered one candidate only, and told that their votes won't count ---
by, among many other people, Hillary Clinton herself.
However, now, when Hillary needs delegates to keep up the pretense
that she still has a shot at the nomination, one of her campaign
panjandrums, Harold Ickes, spent hours in a rules committee meeting
last weekend arguing the fundamental injustice of this procedure, and
its unfairness to the voters. So, who were the miscreants and
blackguards who did wrong by the voters by voting for the 100% penalty
in the first place? Well, one of them was the same Harold Ickes.
Now, I can understand concerns about the fairness of all these
proceedings. For one thing, any fair proceeding considering the case
on the merits would have laughed Ickes out of the room for the
flip-flop alone (his own absurd
rationalizations notwithstanding). But there is a larger point
here. The Democratic nomination process is deliberately not
designed to faithfully represent the will of the voters (whoever
they are, which varies enough state to state to make that a dicey
concept already). One of
the reasons for holding caucuses, for instance, is to reward
candidates who demonstrate an ability to organize effectively.
Obama's done that --- and now Clinton has been out and about saying
that caucus states "don't count", and floating "popular vote counts"
that exclude them. Come on. Everyone knew the rules going in. (With
exception of Clinton's campaign strategist, Mark Penn --- but it's
her fault for hiring the guy.)
But then again, Clinton's camp has been saying a lot of strange things lately.
She said, as I've already mentioned, that the Michigan vote "won't
count for anything", then went back on that when it turned out she
needed the delegates. And when the rules committee this weekend went with a
plan that came from Michigan's state Democratic Party, Ickes
went batshit, claiming to know better than them what was right
for the state. (He also professed to be astounded that anyone would make a
big deal out of the four delegate difference between Michigan's
proposal and the one he was pushing --- but he was the one threatening
a convention floor fight. That's life in HillaryLand. Or undeath.
By the way, Clinton has also said that she would actively support and
campaign for the eventual nominee, even if it turned out to be somebody
else. Just like she said she was happy stripping delegates from Michigan.
The greater concern here is that the general vituperation and hostile
atmosphere here could split the party and let the Republicans back into
the race. For an example, consider this Hillary supporter,
ejected from the Rules Committee meeting this weekend, who told reporters
that Obama was an "inadequate black male", before complaining that she
was being treated as a "second class citizen". (She's from New York,
where primary votes count in full.) We're beyond dog whistles here;
the racism is out in the open. And while some of this stuff was, perhaps,
inevitable, and beyond Clinton's control, this wasn't --- she was part
of a crowd that the Clinton organization bussed in for the hearing,
other members of which were heard chanting "McCain! McCain! McCain!"
in the hearing itself.
Hillary Clinton is choosing to give this stuff a platform. And
succoring it by telling her supporters, over and over, that procedures
that her representatives agreed to nearly a year ago leave her somehow
So, if you think Obama should try to compromise, what more exactly
should he do? (The rules committee, for instance, was dominated by
his supporters, and didn't have to give an inch. And they
do have the state committees to consider --- even if Clinton apparently
doesn't). And if you think this isn't unreasonable behavior on the
part of the Clinton campaign, what would be?