Thank You, Senator Clinton

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.

Tags: senator clinton, Senator Obama (all tags)



Tip Jar

Flame away. You can flame all day, if you want to.

by shef 2008-06-02 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Tip Jar

"This leads me back to my original question: what's the point with all this popular vote talk?"..very simple. Since the media and the DNC decided to make sure Hillary would not be the candidate of the democratic party, the popular vote issue is discussed as the truest barometer of democracy and that people actually should be the ones to decide who the nominee should b,rather than delegates, superdelegates. Situations like this or the 2000 presidential election brought to light what we all tend to forget, that we do not live in a faux democracy, in attempt to control the will of the people (because the people can't be trusted) we created this bizarre system of delegates whom the people vote for, except, they don't really vote for them either, unless you consider each persons vote (Mich/Fla) 1/2 a vote..for a delegate.

by gorgias 2008-06-02 04:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Tip Jar

The popular votes does mean much to me... no offense.    Obama was running against Clinton and operation chaos republicans who boosted her totals, especially in open primaries.

by realistdem 2008-06-02 04:28PM | 0 recs
never compare her to Jesse Jackson


by DiamondJay 2008-06-02 02:20PM | 0 recs
I'm sorry

what's the problem...

by shef 2008-06-02 02:24PM | 0 recs
Good diary.

I like Jesse Jackson.  I see no problem with the comparison, which was not even to him, but to events with which he was involved.  

Jesse Jackson's wife supported Clinton.

by TomP 2008-06-02 02:28PM | 0 recs

Take a wild guess.

by emptythreatsfarm 2008-06-02 02:57PM | 0 recs
Re: hmmmm......

well, I'm assuming it has something to do with the fact that this election is a heck of a lot closer, but, honestly, I'm not sure I get it.

Not to mention, I was comparing the two to demonstrate that Sen. Clinton has even more warrent to stay in the election than he did...

So, still don't see the problem.

by shef 2008-06-02 03:46PM | 0 recs
Re: hmmmm......

Oh, I agreed with your analysis.

I think the problem the poster in question has with the comparison of the two candidates might be quite thin.

You know, only skin deep.

Get it now?

by emptythreatsfarm 2008-06-02 03:51PM | 0 recs
In principle...but in practice...

You set yourself up nicely.

In principle you are for one thing, but in practice you are actually against it.  Nice =)

I like using the populat vote metric myself.  It is not an argument I expect to influence the outcome of the nomination.  But it IS an important metric... election winners are normally expected to get more votes than election losers.  It is an argument that weakens Sen. Obama's candidacy.

You may not like it.. perhaps because it weakens Sen. Obama's candidacy.  But pretending it away (as you seem to be advocating) does not change it either.

by SevenStrings 2008-06-02 02:25PM | 0 recs
Re: In principle...but in practice...

It does not really matter any more.

"Principles" are about ending the occupation of Iraq, about universal health care.

This is a good diary and a peace offering.

by TomP 2008-06-02 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: In principle...but in practice...

It IS a good diary.

But it does not appear to be a peace me at least !!

by SevenStrings 2008-06-02 02:33PM | 0 recs
I do what I can :)

My problem with the popular vote metric is that I don't understand what it's trying to achieve.

The reason we shouldn't use it is that our primary system is set up in such a way that makes calculating it near-impossible (to do fairly, that is).

That said, yes, I suppose it does rhetorically weaken Obama's candidacy, but it doesn't seem to do much else.

I suppose I am pretending it away, inasmuch as I--correctly, I think--note that it does not do anything useful for the party or the actual results of the nomination,.

by shef 2008-06-02 02:40PM | 0 recs
Re: I do what I can :)

What does the popular vote metric achieve: it is a simple way of saying who got more votes.

And no, the primary system does not make it hard to calculate...the caucus system does.  Therefore, we are forced to make some estimates.  And those estimates suggest that Sen. Clinton got more votes.

That said, I do recognize that in the US, winners are not required to get more votes.  But, it would have been nice...

And do you believe that by pretending that the popular vote metric does not exist, that you are doing anything remotely useful for your candidate or party ?

by SevenStrings 2008-06-02 02:58PM | 0 recs
Re: I do what I can :)

Well, I'd disagree that it is only the caucus that system that makes it difficult to count. Leaving aside the issue in this election of FL and MI, we still have to contend with the wide and varied ways that govern the different states' primaries. For example, do we count an open primary differently than a closed one?

I would say that there are more issues than simply the caucus states.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, in addition to the problem of tabulating the popular votes, we have to contend with the fact that the popular vote in this case isn't the desired goal. If it were, campaigns would be run differently. Obama would have tried to run up his score in IL; Clinton would have done the same in NY and CA.

But, in response to your question, it isn't a matter of pretending that the popular vote metric does or doesn't exist. I contend that it doesn't--at least not in the clear-cut way it's being used by Sen. Clinton and her supporters. Simply put, there are about a dozen ways--all with logical support--that one could calculate it, and Sen. Clinton only wins in a few of those. So, by denying its existence (in the form referred to by Sen. Clinton), I believe that I am doing something useful: calling a flawed, problematic, and specious metric what it is.

by shef 2008-06-02 03:42PM | 0 recs
Re: I do what I can :)

There may be dozens of ways of calculating popular vote, but there is only one way of calculating the popular vote properly:  

1 vote as cast = 1 vote as counted!!

And Sen. Clinton is going to win that one !

by SevenStrings 2008-06-02 04:04PM | 0 recs
Re: I do what I can :)

okay, one vote as cast = one vote as counted.

They don't cast votes in caucuses, so those are out, and are you including the FL & MI?

already, this metric has lost a good deal of its power.

by shef 2008-06-02 06:41PM | 0 recs
Re: I do what I can :)

yes I include Fl & MI...they cast votes, did they  not!

And yes, I have no problems disenfranchising  Caucus states...TX proved that caucuses are meaningless!!

And no, I am not suggesting that you change the rules retroactively...

but that is how I gauge the popular vote!!

by SevenStrings 2008-06-03 02:17AM | 0 recs
Re: In principle...but in practice...

as for the principle/practice distinction. It results in an ambivilence over Sen. Clinton's candidacy, not some firm dislike for it. The point of the distinction is to highlight that it is one thing (or one main thing) that I believe is detrimental in all of this: Senator Clinton's use of the popular vote metric, which serves no real purpose except to cause division. It doesn't give her a better shot at the nomination, it just results in divisivness.

Were it not for that, I'd be the first to say "on to Denver!"

by shef 2008-06-02 03:52PM | 0 recs
Re: In principle...but in practice...


by canadian gal 2008-06-02 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Thank You, Senator Clinton

started out nicely, but then became a litany  of complaints about Hillary.  

Sorry, but that doesn't win any brownie points here.

nice beginning, though

by colebiancardi 2008-06-02 02:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Thank You, Senator Clinton

No brownie points... I'd settle for a tip :)

by shef 2008-06-03 12:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Thank You, Senator Clinton

well, I wouldn't call it a litany...

I only make the claim of one problem. :)

by shef 2008-06-02 03:44PM | 0 recs
Dayum, I'm a native NY'er

and have lived there on and off throughout my life. I'm in Florida now, and you have suddenly made me sooo homesick, geeze.

Thank you though :)

by phoenixdreamz 2008-06-02 04:00PM | 0 recs

Myself, I've always believed that a good "in your face neener-neener-neenerism" is very healing.

by aggieric 2008-06-02 06:28PM | 0 recs


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