Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Rant to Make Me Feel Better About Tonight's Probable Primary Result

The day is finally here. Pennsylvania votes, and not a moment too soon. In fact, many, many moments too late. Since it’s the day of a big primary, I might as well uncork a political post. An anonymous commenter around here (or two -- who knows?; they’re anonymous!) recently wrote:
Your anger and vitriol towards Hillary and “The Clintons” is so overwhelming, it makes one wonder if you have been detrimentally affected by any of the policies during Bill Clinton's Presidency or Hillary Clinton as a New York Senator. Your attitude seems to be that you would rather almost anyone else in the White House, even if it is not a democrat [sic].
Another (or the same!) wrote:
There are certainly some domestic issues and relationships that have not been sufficiently addressed on this blog.
I’m not sure why I should privilege anonymous comments -- for all I know, it’s Hillary leaving them; they kind of sound like her -- but here goes:

Well, first, the Clintons in quotes in that first comment is priceless. As if they or their power-sharing arrangement are fake. Me and my paranoia, lumping an ex-president and his wife, who tried to engineer a health plan while not elected to office, into one entity. Just ridiculous. The second comment confounds me. If they’re talking about Reverend Wright, I guess a conflicted, 1,600-word post on the subject wasn’t enough. If they’re talking about more ridiculous accusations of innocence-by-association, Hillary’s been at least as silent as I have.

But let’s get to the meat of the complaints, such as there is. I'm not exaggerating my opinions for effect, and I try not to just spew vitriol, which I do find unproductive. There are a few people I can think of who, if running against Hillary, would allow me to vote for her as a "lesser of two evils" option. Of course. But John McCain is not one of them. And the strength of my opinion is not due to being adversely affected by her or her husband's policies. (I once voted for her husband, in fact.) There are two things that underpin my feeling:

1. Character. This matters to me, though not in a religious-right way. I consider both of the Clintons opportunistic and entitled in a way that stands out even for politicians, which is saying something. If their attitude and tactics were displayed by a Republican candidate, Democrats would retch. (Stubborn party loyalty leads to greater double standards than you see in almost any other walk of life, and this election cycle has laid them bare unlike any I can remember.)

2. Actual politics. This opportunism also infects their policies. On certain issues that require political courage -- like, say, gay rights, but many others as well -- I simply don't trust the Clintons to step up to the plate, and they've left a long track record on which I base that. I tend to be a left-leaning centrist, which is why I voted for Bill Clinton. But at this point, the Clintons aren't centrists; they're just egoists. They've shown time and again over the past decade that they privilege their exercise of power over principle. I'm very happy to firmly boot Bush out of office by voting in a Democrat. Very happy. But not her. Why would I choose to send a message against Bush’s style of politics by voting for someone who I think would continue them more than any other candidate (of any party) on the ballot?

If my attitude seems to be that I would prefer someone else in the White House, “even if it is not a Democrat,” that’s because it is my attitude. I am not a Democrat. I'm an independent. The notion that someone else might get in the White House doesn't necessarily chill my spine. Especially when the other option is McCain, who's hardly Bush or Huckabee or Cheney, etc.

But I want to dig deeper here, because presumably my anonymous friends (and foes) are supporters of Hillary Clinton. And so, I don’t feel compelled to fall back on arguments for McCain just yet. After all, the candidate I support is still running. In fact, more Americans have voted for him than any other candidate this year. And he is -- gasp -- a Democrat. If Obama has become unelectable, which I think is a shaky proposition, many thanks should go to Hillary, who has gone after him in a highly calculated way:
In mid-January, 59 percent of independents said they had a favorable impression of (Clinton), compared to 39 percent unfavorable. Last week, it was the reverse: 39 percent favorable and 58 percent unfavorable.
There's a reason for a swing that big, and it's not the vitriol of a little-read blogger like myself. It's Clinton herself.

Record numbers of Democrats have turned out to vote, compared to paltry numbers for the Republicans. That’s due to Obama, and it wasn’t a brief burst of energy -- the other night, 35,000 people went to a rally of his in Philadelphia. If the Dems had simply ridden this wave, given the political realities of 2008, I really think Obama would have been unstoppable. Instead, they fumbled the ball, as they have a tendency to do. (Pardon the jarring shift from surfing to football metaphor.)

So sure, now it would be a very tight election between Obama and McCain. But if Hillary is the opponent, good luck. If Democrats don’t want to vote for her in November, they will have three good reasons from which to choose: they feel alienated by the tactics she’s used over the past few months (see: African-Americans); they want to punish the party for overruling the popular and delegate vote, which it would almost certainly have to do to make Clinton the nominee; or they simply prefer McCain. On the other side, conservative turnout will be massive. Republicans might have misgivings about Obama, but if you think my feelings for Hillary are visceral...I at least recognize and respect her intellectual strength; a lot of the country simply hates her. And you can say that’s a bad standard by which to choose a nominee, but that ignores that Hillary is using the same exact standard (unelectability) to argue against Obama -- except I’m still waiting (patiently) to hear why a figure as polarizing as Hillary Clinton is more electable than someone who draws stadiums full of enthusiastic supporters.

Lastly, I find it ironic that supporters of Clinton could criticize, with a straight face, the idea of voting for a Republican over her, since she has all but suggested during certain rallies of hers that McCain is a more qualified, honorable candidate than Obama. In this and other ways, like most compulsive liars, the Clintons corner their supporters into making some extraordinarily contorted arguments on their behalf.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Hillary. Can we still be friends?

11:07 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

But of course.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Jamal said...

Well said. Hilary and Bill are narcissistic personalities--and I mean that in the clinical way. They believe we will all perish without them and so any means justify their ends. Can anyone seriously keep up with the lies, mistatements, and inconsistent positions? Anyone who truly believes she is more electable is drinking the kool aid (which of course is her insult to all Obama supporters--perfect use of Rovian tactics yet again). Your point is really, well THE point. She makes Democrats retch. What do you think Republican turnout will be if she's on the ballot?

3:03 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

In response to one of your anonymous commenters: It's not that either Clinton's policies were particularly bad, they just weren't particularly good. There was nothing exceptional about the Clinton years in the White House that were the result of either of their policies, and you could argue that Bill was a pretty lousy President (think the Somalia debacle or NAFTA). Just because he lucked out and got to be President during the end-of-the-Cold-War victory lap and the dot-com boom, doesn't mean Bill or Hillary actually knows what they're doing.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a long time reader, and first time "commenter" I am well aware of your feelings towards Hillary. However, it would be instructive if you could provide some insights regarding her convincing victories in very large states such as Mass, Texas, Ohio, California, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Surely, the voters in these states must be fully aware of her reputation, personality, character, etc. Is it possible that many of the voters are just more comfortable with a "known" quantity even if she is not the ideal candidate. While I understand the excitement of an Obama candidacy, it is a long road ahead and I am not convinced that the obstacles facing Obama can be overcome.

7:51 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Thanks for reading (and commenting).

In the case of some big states that Hillary has won -- most notably, New York, Mass., and California -- I think the importance of her wins (in terms of November) has been completely overblown. I say, without sarcasm, good for her for winning those states. Well done. But a Democrat beating another Democrat in a hotly contested year -- what's the real significance? Any Democrat nominee of any solidity at all should be able to beat a Republican in those states.

Likewise in Texas -- who cares? John McCain should win Texas.

As for states like Penn. and Ohio, which will be battleground states in November, I think it's important. And Hillary's right to emphasize her strengths there. But Obama has won a lot of other states (and energized a lot of voters in them) that may go Democrat when they might not otherwise. I don't know if it's a perfect toss-up or not, but I think they each have their strengths in terms of the general-election map.

As for why people in some states have gone for Hillary, well, I wouldn't presume to guess. I suppose there are lots of reasons. On the positive side: She's smart; she's been a hard-working senator by most accounts; many people have a lot of good memories associated with the years during which she was First Lady. On the negative (in my opinion) side: Some women are just going to vote for her because she's a woman, come hell or high water (this trend must benefit Obama with African-Americans, too, but you don't need dazzling math skills to figure out who benefits more from straight identity voting); and it's just an unavoidable fact that, given her huge advantage with older voters, racism must be playing some role -- I know it's not easy to run as a woman, either, but while gender and race can both be thorny issues in this country, race is thornier.

Now, I'm legitimately curious myself. You say, "it is a long road ahead and I am not convinced that the obstacles facing Obama can be overcome." Fair enough. But if I substituted Clinton for Obama in that sentence -- citing as obstacles her heavy negative ratings, the likelihood that the party will be much more fractured if the superdelegates decide things, and her tougher road to differentiate herself from McCain on the vital issue of the war -- how would you console me?

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In fact, more Americans have voted for him than any other candidate this year."

If you get technical about it -- as the Clintons are sure to do -- this isn't really true. Because if you add in Florida (who gets no delegates in the Dem primary this year), Michigan (who get no delegates, and Obama wasn't on the ballot), as well as including estimates from Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington (who haven't released their popular votes yet), then Hillary has received 12,000 more votes. (If you leave out the estimates, then Hillary has received 122,000 more votes.) (If you leave out Fla, Mich, Ia, Nev, Maine, and Wash, then Obama's received 500,000 more votes.)

It's a pure technicality, and the vote difference is more than overcome if you credit Obama with even half of the "Undecided" votes against Clinton in Michigan, but what do you suppose are the odds that the Clinton team are going to leave that out of their arguments?

But it still raises an interesting issue. Lots of Dems are saying that the superdelegates should follow the popular vote. What if Hillary wins the popular vote (including Michigan)? I can hear the Republicans giggling now: "Selected not elected!"

Here's the Real Clear Politics vote count:


-- MattM

1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you to Matt for providing at least a glimpse of the opposing point of view. Sometimes it feels as though the only goal here at ASWOBA is to vilify Hillary. Keep in mind that if Obama wins the nomination, the Republicans will make Hillary seem like a dear old friend. A little balance and intellectual honesty is appreciated once in a while.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Jamal said...

I like hearing and engaging the opposing side of things. On that note, let's be as intellectually honest as possible about what the Republicans will do. In my view, it is pure fantasy to believe that the Republicans will have an easier time swiftboating Obama than they will Clinton. There is a reason so many R's are committing voter fraud to get Hilary elected. It's their dream scenario. The silence from the right on Clinton is the calm before the storm. If the Dems can somehow screw this up and get her elected, then as we say in Texas, Katy bar the door, because trouble is coming. It's gonna get ugly. The fact is, Obama has shown himself to be the more professional, seasoned, and disciplined candidate by refusing to let the skeletons out of Clintons' enormous closet. She, however, has no such dignity. So, here we are.

10:58 AM  
Blogger lmha said...

Three comments. First John is totally right on the money, so much so, that I can't say it better myself. I can only add 2) that Obama, did in fact WIN Texas, in delegates (isn't that what the Clintons said mattered most, when they had the most?) and 3) Michigan and Florida votes cannot be included in Hillary's vote total when Obama wasn't on the ballot and the candidates could not even appear in those states to campaign. If we were going to have the election based on pre-campaigning, no one would dispute that she would get the nomination. But fortunately, that's not how the cookie crumbles.

And finally, "intellectual honesty" and Clinton support are mutually exclusive. I've been a life-long Democrat and will never, ever, EVER vote for a Clinton again. Never.

Another John, or rather Jon, got it right as well...


11:11 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

Anonymous (the most recent Anonymous), I also appreciate Matt's comment. I appreciate Matt in general. But I love how you say it reflects "the opposing view," which view is that Clinton has secured more popular votes because of Michigan. (Of course, it takes more than just Michigan for her to reach that silly figure, but we'll leave that aside.) Her name was the only one on the ballot in Michigan. Do you think she's counting the massive "Anyone Else" turnouot in Michigan on Obama's side of the ledger? Doubtful.

The jaw-dropping thing remains the Clinton camp's insistence that she's harder for Republicans to attack. Jamal puts it perfectly when he writes about the calm before the storm. I know some Republicans, and I can tell you, some of them have already reported to me that friends of theirs have switched sides to vote for Hillary in the primary. That's not because they fear her in November.

Lastly, this is my blog. I don't think anyone's confusing it for a political media outlet. I'm a citizen who strongly favors Obama. So how would it be more "intellectually honest" for me to credit Clinton's campaign when I think it's fueled, at this point, by lies and slander? Honestly, I think if you look back, my tone at first was much more positive, focused mostly on Obama, because I thought he was such an amazing candidate and that the Dems were lucky to have him. My negativity has increased as: a) Hillary has turned the campaign into a pretty vicious affair, something you tellingly don't acknowledge in your comments around here, and b) the Democrats, who I also love to parody, managed to turn the lay-up of 2008 into a half-court heave at the buzzer.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I also appreciate Matt's comment. I appreciate Matt in general."

That's only because you seem staggeringly handsome and intelligent when standing next to me. But I'll take what I can get.

"the Democrats, who I also love to parody, managed to turn the lay-up of 2008 into a half-court heave at the buzzer."

Ain't that the truth. We're currently facing TWO long and controversial wars, the economy is turning down, property values are dropping, we're talking about massive financial bailouts in connection with hundreds of thousands of home foreclosures, and Republicans have controlled the White House for 20 of the last 28 years. By all accounts, the country should be clamoring for change in the White House.

After several years in power, even the Republicans were unhappy with Republicans, and were talking about sitting out the election to punish the party for its ineffectual leadership. And that's *before* they nominated McCain, who doesn't exactly stir strong feelings of affinity in the Republican base. (Interesting statistic: up to the time Mitt Romney dropped out of the race, McCain had not won a plurality of self-described Republicans in any primary.)

Plus, Rep's think Hillary can get away with attacks that they could never get away with. If Republicans had released the Rev. Wright videos, how long would it have taken before Dems branded the attacks racist? If a Republican revealed Obama's relationship with William Ayers, how long before pundits were shouting the phrase "Swift Boat"? But Hillary releases them, and a) she's just showing why she's more electable, and b) Republicans stand on the shore without getting their hair mussed up, while Democrats shoot holes in each others' boats.

-- MattM

6:25 PM  

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