Well, it’s sometimes seemed to have more endings than Return of the King. But, tonight, it looks like the primary season is finally, really, truly at an end, with Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois our duly chosen Democratic nominee. In the days and weeks ahead, it’ll behoove all of us, however hard, to let the primary bygones be bygones and to help reunite the party against our real foe, John McCain and the GOP. But, before we let the healing begin, I do have one more word to say about the Clintons, who above all else this campaign season has proven the truth of the old adage: “Choose your enemies wisely, for you will become them.“
Now, I’m not going to recite the full litany of grievances against the Clintons’ behavior of late one more time. I’d say that ground is already pretty well-covered in the election archives. But I will say this: It has become increasingly fashionable in the press and elsewhere to esteem Sen. Clinton — regardless of her other political transgressions — as gutsy, tenacious, a fighter. Say what you will about her methods, this line of thinking goes, she goes there. She does what needs to be done. In fact, argues otherwise discerning political observers such as friend and colleague David Greenberg, she is exactly the kind of fighter the Left has said they’ve been looking for. (Of course, she and her husband have been AWOL when it counted over the past seven years, but that’s neither here nor there in this view.)
Well, simply put, this is all hooey. Sen. Clinton’s behavior over the past six months and change has been exactly the wrong lesson for Democrats to draw from the politics of the last decade. I’ve said it here several times before, but, in a nutshell, here’s why:
You don’t wear the ring. You destroy the ring.
Or, in other words, the key to beating the Republicans is not by acting Republican. It’s by rising above their tendentious garbage and working to restore reason and sanity to our politics. At the very least, a Democratic nominee for president shouldn’t validate the base tactics of the GOP by wallowing in their wretchedness. For what shall it profit a woman, if she shall gain the whole world, and lose her own soul?
Nevertheless, seemingly blinded by ambition, Sen. Clinton very quickly chose the wrong path. (In the place of a Dumb Lord, we would have a Queen…) She embraced the Rove playbook and dabbled in Al Qaeda hysteria. She validated John McCain and threatened to obliterate Iran. She called her opponent elitist and derided the “elite opinion” of the reality-based community. She played nice with Limbaugh, Scaife, and FOX. She flirted dangerously with the race card and lauded hard-working whites. She, for all intent and purposes, became the Republican candidate in the Democratic primary. She, and her husband, became part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
To repeat something I said after Wisconsin in February, the night when Sen. Obama’s primary victory basically became mathematically inexorable: “If you’ll forgive the lapse into LotR metaphors, the treason of Saruman, once the noblest and wisest of our order, is almost subdued. The Battle for Middle-Earth is only beginning.” So, as we move forward after tonight, I’ll try as much as anyone to tone down the internecine fighting around here, and start focusing fire on our true opponents over on the Right. (That is provided, of course, that Sen. Clinton chooses to diminish, go into the West, and remain a Democrat.)
But let’s also draw the appropriate lesson from the Clinton candidacy of 2008. The Clinton era is over, and this general election is now a chance for we as Dems “to show our quality.” We are not Dubya-Rove Republicans, and adopting their scorched-earth idiocies in a “tenacious” attempt to get elected is most assuredly the road to political, civic, and spiritual ruin.
With architect of the DNC rules turned Clinton apparachik Harold Ickes playing dead-ender to the hilt, the Rules & Bylaws Committee decides to seat Michigan and Florida as half-delegates. (However irate the stark raving Clintonites, even the former President has suggested recently — in private — that this compromise made the most sense.) For those keeping score, this makes the new delegate threshold 2118, which, if all goes well, puts Obama in striking range to end the primary season officially on Tuesday night (in Montana and South Dakota.)
Helping him pass the threshold, of course, will be the superdelegates, who have continued their trend toward Obama during my moving week. Since the last update, according to DemConWatch, Obama has picked up fifteen supers to Clinton’s four, and word is the rest of the “undecideds” are just waiting for the word to break for our nominee. At long last, it’s over, folks.
After Sen. Clinton gets toxic and ridiculous over Michigan and Florida — In a clear attempt to poison the well (and fire up the smoke machine), she compared the DNC’s decision to adhere to the rules she herself agreed to (when it suited her) to Election 2000, Zimbabwe, and the civil rights movement — her aides, fundraisers, and husband try to foist Sen. Clinton as Obama’s veep. But Rural Votes’ Al Giordano says hold up: “The Field can now confirm, based on multiple sources, something that both campaigns publicly deny: that Senator Clinton has directly told Senator Obama that she wants to be his vice presidential nominee, and that Senator Obama politely but straightforwardly and irrevocably said ‘no.’ Obama is going to pick his own running mate based on his own criteria and vetting process.“
In the meantime, regarding delegates: Obama picked up two more Edwards delegates and supers Pilar Lujan (GU) and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (CA) crossed paths switching (Lujan to Clinton, Cardoza to Obama.) Also for Obama since the last update: Rep. Jim Costa (CA), Rep. Joe Courtney (CT), and DNC members Scott Brennan (IA), Jenny Greenleaf (OR), and Wayne Dowdy (MS). (In the meantime, Clinton picked up 2 more UADs from Ohio and Massachusetts.) Thus, the most recent tally: Obama +7, Clinton +2. Sen. Obama is now 57 delegates away from the (current) magic number of 2025.
Meanwhile, over in his corner of the campaign trail, Bill Clinton does what he can to poison the well further, saying — now that chances of a re-do have come and gone, of course — that the Obama campaign was “desperate to disenfranchise Florida and Michigan.” Sigh…at this point, you have to wonder about the man’s mental health. Well, since the former president insists on continually behaving like an asshat, with no regard whatsoever for the Democratic party or his historical legacy, it bears repeating once more:
Honestly, it’s like they’re trying to beat us into submission through sheer, brazen, and unyielding idiocy. Mr. President, you will not be returning to the White House — deal with it.
Update: Today’s poll about disgruntled Clinton and Obama supporters is getting a lot of run. Now, one one hand, this illustrates the problem with the Clintons’ “audacity of hopelessness.” Their continued spewing of often-ridiculous vitriol, even despite the fact that everyone from David Brooks to Obama Girl now knows its over, is only breeding more angry and aggrieved dead-enders among the Clinton ranks. (Then again, have the Clintons ever put the good of the party before themselves? Nope.)
Still, to keep things in perspective, let’s look at the presumed defection rate in 2000: “In March of that year, the Pew Center for the People & the Press released a report titled ‘Bush Pays Price for Primary Victory.’ Following Bush’s victory in the 2000 primaries and McCain’s exit from the race, the Pew survey found that 51% of those who backed McCain during the primary campaign would vote for Gore in the general election. Only 44% of his supporters said that they would be casting their votes for Bush.” That purported 2000 defection rate is considerably higher than those causing consternation today. But, obviously that number didn’t hold up, or Gore would have been elected overwhelmingly in 2000.
The point being, this poll doesn’t tell us anything about the situation in November, only that tempers are running high here in March.
“The irony to all of this, of course, is that while the mechanics of the Democratic nomination fight overwhelmingly favor Obama, the media is giving Clinton a huge lift. And this comes after a year of Clinton complaints that the media was doing them more harm than good.” MSNBC’s Chuck Todd argues that the press may be the only thing keeping Clinton in it (and that the supers may not much like Clinton anyway.) Gee, you think?
In related news, the NYT’s Adam Nagourney argues Clinton’s path to the nomination has gotten harder, now that Michigan and Florida don’t appear to be revoting. “If there is a road to victory for Mrs. Clinton, it is a fairly narrow one.” Emphasis there on “If.” But, hey, at least they’re starting to figure it out. Update: CNN also gropes toward the math.
“We researched every potential alternative process — from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections — but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida.” Florida announce it won’t do a do-over, and Michigan looks headed the same way. On one hand, this means Senator Clinton can continue to try to spin the beauty contest results as definitive, as I’m sure she will. Given her campaign’s reliance on a strategy of continued uncertainty, however, the closing of doors in Michigan and Florida is likely bad news for her (particularly when Clinton’s top Michigan surrogates are arguing that a re-vote “wouldn’t make much difference” anyway.) Update: The Michigan do-over is pronounced dead.
“Contrary to the gullible media’s belief that ‘time’ is a ‘powerful ally’ on Clinton’s side, in fact, Clinton’s only ally is uncertainty. The minute it becomes clear what will happen with Michigan and Florida — re-vote them, refuse to seat them, or split them 50-50 or with half-votes, as some have proposed — is the minute that Clinton’s last ‘path to the nomination’ closes. The only way to keep spin alive is to keep uncertainty alive…Penn can claim that there is a path to the nomination, but under any possible actual resolution of the uncertainty, there is not.”
TAP’s Mark Schmitt explains Clinton’s FL/MI strategy: prolong the chaos. “[T]he specific resolution doesn’t matter, because whatever it is, it will introduce certainty and finiteness, and without the comfort of ambiguity, the Clinton spin-campaign cannot survive. The Clinton campaign began — unwisely — by spinning inevitability; it ends, equally unwisely, by spinning cosmic uncertainty. In between the two spin campaigns, they apparently forgot to give people enough of a positive reason to actually vote for Senator Clinton.“
Update: It’s out of this same desire to muddy the waters, says Al Giordano, that the Clinton camp is now trying to put the brake on the Texas caucus results: “Only by generating smokescreens can it obscure from everybody’s view that Clinton has ceased to advance in national convention delegates while party leaders – from the national to the local – continue to converge in a near-consensus that Obama is the nominee that has earned it, that the voters most support, and that they view as most able to defeat McCain in November.“
“The results of those primaries were fair and should be honored.” Speaking of rogue states, the Clinton campaign continues its gamesmanship in regard to the beauty contests held in Michigan and Florida. (As reported yesterday, Florida’s House Dems — four of nine of whom are Clinton supers (two are Obama voters) — already stepped on the idea of a do-over.)
As for those “fair” primaries being seated as they are, that’s obviously ridiculous if the contest is still in doubt, particularly given that Sen. Obama wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. But, don’t take my word for it — Here’s Sen. Hillary Clinton on the question back in 2007: “It’s clear: This election they’re having is not going to count for anything. I personally did not think it made any difference whether or not my name was on the ballot.“
“The (pro-Clinton) Florida Democratic Party leadership has floated a mail-in primary as the best-case-scenario for its candidate (after all, senior voters are less transient will receive mailed ballots in higher numbers than student, youth and minority voters), and the Obama campaign seemed even willing to go along with that proposal to allow Floridians a legitimate say. But, alas, there is the sticky wicket of The Law.“
Rural Votes‘ Al Giordano explains why the mail-in plan for a Florida revote is illegal. “At this late date, time is running out. The continued gaming of the system demonstrates that they don’t really want a solution, mainly because the results would certainly be different than those of the January 29 beauty contest. But scratch the surface, and this is really about some Democrats now using GOP style voter-suppression tactics…That’s not only ethically indefensible. It’s stupid politically, as it takes away the state party’s moral standing to contest the inevitable GOP voter-supression tactics coming to a Sunshine State near you next November.” Update: Florida’s House Dems nix a do-over.