Thank You, Senator Clinton
by shef, Mon Jun 02, 2008 at 02:12:18 PM EDT
Crossposted at Ich Bin Ein Oberliner.
I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of reading, thinking, and writing about the Democratic primary. I'm sitting outside, having my morning coffee (and, yes, I know it's about 3 o'clock...), and thanking my stars that one way or another, this thing is going to be over soon. But, if I could say a few last words.
There are plenty of good things about long primaries. I like the increased coverage. I like the organization and fund raising. I like the fleshing out of policy proposals. I like that states (and territories) that don't normally get attention are getting their two cents in about this process. I like primaries. They're good for the party, good for the candidates, and good for the health of our civic fabric.
So, in principle, I don't have a problem with Senator Clinton staying in the race this late (or even later), despite the mathematical improbability (or, more aptly, impossibility) of her victory. Digby put it well. She writes:
I think the thing that has most exacerbated the fervent Clinton supporters' frustration, and frankly astonished me a bit, has been this endless drumbeat since February for her to drop out even though she was still winning primaries. Nobody should expect a politician who is still winning to quit. It makes no sense. It's not in their DNA. Certainly, in a race this close it made no sense whatsoever. I don't think that line has helped Obama (and I think it's why the campaign itself has been so careful not to publicly flog it.)
In 84 and 88, Jackson was seen as a potential party wrecker too and in 88 he took his historic campaign, in which he won 11 contests, all the way to the convention. He made a very famous speech which he ended with the chant "Keep Hope Alive," which could have easily been construed as wishing for Dukakis to fail so he could get another bite at the apple (something that people are accusing Clinton of already.) But it wasn't.
And that's because while Jackson went to the convention trailing by 1200 delegates, he was holding a very important card, which everyone recognized and respected. You can rest assured that people were worried that his constituency, many of them first time voters who he had registered, would stay home in the fall, and so Democrats treated him and his campaign (publicly at least) with respect and deference, and rightly so. He represented the dreams and aspirations of millions of Democratic voters, after all. [emphasis mine]
Being Digby, this quote is packed full of important points, but I'd like to highlight a few. For my fellow Obama supporters, I would ask--at great risk of seeming preachy--that you remember that Senator Clinton represents the dreams and aspirations of millions of Democrats. She is probably going to lose. As someone who's favorite candidate has lost over and over again (I am, after all, a liberal), I know how painful this is. Rubbing it in doesn't help. Being a dick about it doesn't help. I have--and I'm sure most Obama supporters have--serious beef with the way in which Senator Clinton ran her campaign. But she's a good Democrat, and her supports, by and large, are good Democrats too; let's all try to remember that.
That's my unity call. This is as gracious as I'm going to be. After all, there are a number of very legitimate problems with Senator Clinton's campaign.
I've been wracking my brain for what it is that Sen. Clinton and her supporters are trying to acheive with their obsession over the "popular vote". As has been pointed out, over and over again, there is a lot wrong with this metric. The primary process isn't like the general election. There isn't an easy way of calculating the popular vote. Caucus states, different ways of setting up primaries (open, closed, etc.), places that don't vote in the GE (i.e. Puerto Rico), less valid elections (MI & FL) all make calculating the "popular vote" extremely complex. Furthermore, the popular vote just isn't how we decide who the nominee will be.
The problems in calculating the metric aside, let's grant--for the sake of argument--Senator Clinton a "victory" in the popular vote. So what? She's still behind in pledged delegates. These aren't going to move. So, perhaps the popular vote metric is being used to sway superdelegates. But, even if this were the case, Sen. Clinton and her supporters would be asking a lot of this one metric. After all, as has been pointed out by a number of her supporters, the SDs are meant to have free reign in their candidate choice; the popular vote can only be one of many metrics used in the SD's choice. It seems that, if this is the intent of the Clinton camp's use of the popular vote, this is a poor strategy. She would need to demonstrate an overwhelming strength in order to sway the needed number of SDs. And the popular vote victory (in some calculations non-existent) razor-thin as it is, does not give her that overwhelming warrant.
This leads me back to my original question: what's the point with all this popular vote talk? It doesn't contribute directly to her nomination (in the pledged delegate count) or contribute indirectly to her nomination (as a tool to convince an overwhelming number of SDs). So, then, why?
Here is where I have to consider the 2012 conspiracy theory. I hold that we can dismiss this out of hand. It just doesn't fit. But the argument would go like this. Given that (1) her claims about the popular vote doesn't contribute significantly to her likelihood of nomination, and given that (2) her claims about the popular vote are being used to argue that she should have gotten the nomination (i.e. it is being stolen from her), then it seems likely that she is using this to divide the party so as to give Sen. McCain the presidency, thus allowing her to swoop in and win in 2012.
This is a bad argument, though, given the level of divisiveness in this primary, and given the seemingly inexplicable obsession with the popular vote, it is understandable that many in the Obama camp would make it. However, this is a very complex theory, with a lot of far-reaching, unsupported assumptions and caricatures of Sen. Clinton's personality. There is a much more simple explanation: Sen. Clinton doesn't have an endgame.
In other words, Senator Clinton isn't intending to sow divisiveness in the party to set herself up for a run in 2012, and she knows (probably) that this isn't going to get her the needed number of SDs. She's hammering this metric because she--like any other politician--likes to win, and doesn't like to quit. You don't get into politics if you aren't ambitious. You don't win elections in this country if you drop out when it looks like you're going to lose. This is why she's staying in the race.
I said before that, in principle, I don't have a problem with Senator Clinton staying in the race despite the near-impossible odds of her victory. I think, however, that her and her supporters obsession with the popular vote total, in addition to being unhelpful to her cause, is doing little but causing a divide in the party that will be hard to heal.
In short, I am ambivalent about Sen. Clinton's candidacy at this point. I respect her a good deal. I like some of her policies. I think that, by running a strong campaign, she has done a great deal of good in getting the party ready for the general election and elections to come. It's hard to understate the importance of the fund raising and organizing and party-building that she and Senator Obama, by virtue of this hard-fought primary, have done.
On the flip side, though, is the division that she and her supporters are causing through their adamant use of a poor and specious metric. I'd ask Senator Clinton's supporter (and Sen. Clinton, if I could), what possible good could come from this use of the so-called popular vote total? It is fundamentally flawed, and is being used to give the impression that Obama somehow stole this election.
In the end, though, I feel confident we'll come together, and we'll beat John McCain. Senator Clinton is a good woman and good Democrat, and she understands the importance of this. Some of her supporters will vote for Obama, some won't, and that's the way it is. If Senator Obama is as good as I hope he is, then he'll be able to convince many of Clinton's supporters to vote for him. And his campaign would be well-served by their passion for and commitment to progressive and Democratic principles.
And, overall, I'd like to thank Senator Clinton and Barack Obama (and John Edwards, etc.) for this primary season. Despite the stupidity and inanity of it all, the feckless, inept, sexist media, the idiotic talking points (on every side), all the division and dischord. This primary has been good for the party.
I'm going to end with a quote (albeit somewhat cheesy). It's from Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories:
[N]ow that they had talked through everything so fully, fought hard, remained united, supported each other when required to do so, and in general looked like a force with a common purpose. All those arguments and debates, all that openness, had created powerful bonds of fellowship between them.
I hope, and think, that this is what we will look like in November.