Monday, June 02, 2008

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?

Let's review.

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 the apparent 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. Whatever.)

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 being cheated.

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?


Blogger Alessandro Machi said...

The only reason for caucuses is to save the state money from having to put on their own primary. It has very little to do with proving how well a candidates people can get out the vote by cheating.


10:57 AM  
Blogger charles said...

Thus neatly explaining Texas, which has both a primary and a caucus. Thanks for the elucidating insight!

5:29 PM  

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