As of Tuesday, May 27, Christopher Beam’s ever-useful Hillary Deathwatch had her chances of winning the Democratic nomination at one half of one percent, for obvious reasons – it was not just the remark about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, still a hot topic, but it was the delegate count.
Of course there was the matter of Florida and Michigan, with her lawyer and surrogate Lanny Davis arguing she should get all the delegates – well, she should get at least 102 out of 130 delegates in Michigan, as Obama really didn’t have to take his name off the ballot there, and thus it was really his choice to throw the votes away. That’s his problem. All candidates did agree Michigan wouldn’t count and they wouldn’t campaign there, but Obama was being disrespectful – he took his name off the ballot, as did most of the others, and insulted those folks and should now pay the price. That’s an interesting argument that the party’s rule committee will have to consider, after they pick their jaws up off the floor.
But the worrisome thing was Obama’s ace-in-the-hole:
Sources close to the [Obama] campaign estimate that as many as three dozen Democratic superdelegates have privately pledged to announce their support for Obama on June 4 or 5. The campaign is determined that Obama not end the first week in June without securing the support of delegates numbering 2026 – or 2210, as the case may be.
So change the rules, as the Clinton folks now insist, and make the target number different, it won’t matter. The only thing left now will be sour grapes – the argument that she got the most popular votes, if you squint your eyes and look at things in a special way, and Obama stole this from her. That will keep large numbers of her angry supporters at home – they won’t vote, and McCain will waltz into the White House and order a nuclear strike on Iran. Hillary Clinton will smile ruefully and her husband, Bill, will go on a “scolding” tour. This is not going well.
As for that assassination misunderstanding, Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post says this:
If this campaign goes on much longer, what will be left of Hillary Clinton? A woman uniformly described by her close friends as genuine, principled and sane has been reduced to citing the timing of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination as a reason to stay in the race – an argument that is ungenuine, unprincipled and insane.
Perhaps the Age of the Clintons is ending. Things are changing. On the other side, the Age of Karl Rove – what was to be the Permanent Republican Majority extending to infinity – didn’t exactly work out either. And unless McCain chooses Jeb Bush as his running mate – quite unlikely – the Age of Bush may also be over. It is hard to establish political dynasties when people get to vote. Britain’s royalty has it easy. The House of Windsor – the old part a branch of the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha line of the House of Wettin, and newer part is a branch of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg line of the House of Oldenburg – doesn’t have such problems. No one votes on such things.
But the ending of an age of anything is traumatic. What you will be getting can be unsettling. You may not get what you want. Gloria Steinem has argued that anyone who failed to support Clinton’s presidential bid has doomed feminism. Former Kentucky Labor Secretary Carol Palmore said this to Bloomberg news over the weekend – “Never in our lifetime will we have another chance to have a woman president.” Earlier Marie Cocco had written a column for the Washington Post arguing that “if Clinton is not the nominee, no woman will seriously contend for the White House for another generation.” And a few days before that, in the New York Times, there was the Kate Zernike piece saying that was a fact that “there is no Hillary waiting in the wings.” And in Saturday’s Chicago Tribune, Mark Silva asked an interesting question – whether “Hillary Clinton paved the way for anyone but herself?”
So an age may be ending, but the new age has one feature of the old age that is passing – women will be excluded.
In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick argues that all this is nonsense, what she calls “the inevitable rending of garments.” In fact, “the claim that the doors have slammed on decades of future woman presidents is as maddening as the Olympics of Oppression that preceded it.”
She suggests it’s a logic problem. We’re dealing with a flawed syllogism:
The only viable woman candidate thus far has been Hillary; Hillary did not win; ergo there will never be another viable woman candidate.
And she lays into Kate Zernike:
Zernike thus sets up her article with a composite sketch of qualities any Clinton successor will require: “[S]he will come from the South, or west of the Mississippi. She will be a Democrat who has won in a red state, or a Republican who has emerged from the private sector to run for governor … will have proven herself to be ‘a fighter’ (a caring one, of course) … She will be young enough to qualify as post-feminist … married with children, but not young children.” In short, the first woman president will have to be conservative yet liberal, tough yet caring, and young yet old. … Get it? She doesn’t exist! (That’s Zernike’s next paragraph.)
Lithwick just doesn’t see it that way:
We all know these double standards exist for females in public life – voters demand toughness but not bitchiness, confidence but not shrillness, authenticity but also glamour. If the Clinton candidacy has taught us anything, however, it’s that a woman can straddle all those irreconcilable demands and still win. She can win more than 16 million votes in the primaries and around 1,779 delegates. Clinton has shown that a woman can win huge at the ballot box and bring in huge money, and even if Obama ultimately secures the nomination, those facts will not change. Faced with all that evidence of success, how do the naysayers prove it can never be repeated?
How can they prove that? Nonsense will do:
They argue that Clinton had a legitimate shot at the presidency only because she represented a once-in-a-lifetime lightening strike of marriage, fame, and experience that is not only unique to her but that will die with her failed nomination. Silva quotes commentators who have argued that “only Clinton, a former first lady in an administration that presided over eight prosperous years and a second-term senator who has established her own credentials, could have achieved the successes she has this year.” Zernike’s experts echo this: “Mrs. Clinton had such an unusual combination of experience and name recognition that she might actually raise the bar for women.” Under this theory, Clinton was never really a strong woman candidate; she was just the lucky one who’d married a future president.
By advancing the argument that no woman will ever win the presidency without the advantages of a Hillary Clinton because only those advantages account for her success, we do more to disrespect her enormous talents than all of the oily misogynists on Fox News. All across the country, in the most unlikely ways and places, Hillary Clinton kicked ass as a woman. Why take that away from her now?
Sure, Obama came out of nowhere, but such things happen all the time. And who is to say the next phenomenon will not be a woman? Take your pick:
Even if it were true that no new female candidate can appear to amaze and inspire us by 2012, we are already blessed – as even the naysayers concede – with a bullpen that’s both deep and wide. It features female talents such as Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Condoleezza Rice, and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Why diminish all these women with claims that whatever qualities of Clinton’s they lack are precisely those qualities needed to become president someday? What possible evidence do we have for that?
Lithwick notes the real stumbling block:
One way or another, the naysayers all want to conclude (indeed, at times, Clinton herself is wont to conclude) that the Clinton campaign was ultimately derailed by the same pervasive sexism that will scuttle the next woman’s chances. Never mind that this conclusion is belied by polls Zernike cites, which indicate that 86 percent of Americans say they would vote for a woman. Never mind that it’s also belied by Clinton’s own historic achievements.
But we know the two-pronged argument:
The media itself are too sexist ever to allow a woman to win a presidential election. And (not unrelated to the first) the public mistreatment of Clinton will dissuade future women from trying for that brass ring. Cocco cites sexist coverage of Elizabeth Dole’s presidential bid in 2000, which “drowned out discussion of her own record.” Yet that didn’t stop Clinton from running for office. And Zernike quotes Karen O’Connor, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, who asks, “Who would dare to run?” after Clinton’s bid. “The media is set up against you, and if you have the money problem to begin with, why would anyone put their families through this, why would anyone put themselves through this?”
Lithwick knows why:
Women will put themselves through this because most of us will have been more inspired by the Clinton run than scared off by it. They’ll put themselves through it because – for the first time in history – they’ll know what it looks like when a woman almost scores the presidency, and it looks amazing. And some of them will also put themselves through it because having been well and truly sickened by the “iron my shirts” moments they’ll do what women did in 1992 after watching Anita Hill endure outrageous nuts-and-sluts treatment at the hands of an all-male Senate judiciary committee. They’ll swarm government.
And that will be a good thing, thanks to Hillary Clinton. So she should be proud. And one should not assume the worst.
But catastrophic thinking is so very easy – and that leads to bitterness and sour grapes. Take Lanny Davis, the lawyer and former Special Counsel to the President for Bill Clinton, who seems a bit unhinged. In the Huffington Post he offers his Four Things the Obama Campaign Couldn’t Resist Doing To Anger Clinton Supporters. This qualifies as whining:
1. Couldn’t resist waiting one day after Sen. Clinton won West Virginia by 41 points to announce John Edwards endorsement.
2. Couldn’t resist waiting to win majority of ALL delegates (not just pledged delegates) to do victory lap speech in Iowa the night Hillary won Kentucky by 36 points.
3. Couldn’t resist waiting to win majority of all delegates to announce Jim Johnson as VP search committee head – the first candidate in my memory ever to do so while his chief opponent is still fighting for nomination – and winning in last primary in crucial border state by 36 points (Kentucky).
4. Couldn’t resist listing Bill Richardson as under consideration for Veep – the one Red Flag name that infuriates even moderate Clinton supporters the most – not because he chose to endorse Sen. Obama, but the way he did it, i.e., his inability to avoid making negative comments about Sen. Clinton while doing so – another person who sometimes can’t resist the temptation of not being gracious when he should be, a great disappointment to many of his former close friends from the Clinton camp and which will not be forgotten.
Hillary Clinton has done something amazing – something trailblazing – but so has Obama. It seems you cannot be happy about both. It’s too easy to be bitter.
Of course, on the other side, there are the lists that counter Davis’ four items – what Hillary Clinton couldn’t resist, like this one:
Other lists at that site include, voting for the Iraq war resolution, voting for Kyle-Lieberman, distorting the concepts of popular versus pledged votes and primary versus general election support, her change of mind on the rules regarding Michigan and Florida, bragging about ducking sniper fire when Chelsea was with her, letting Geraldine Ferraro claim that the only reason Obama was successful is his race, telling “those of us who have state caucuses that the process is not legitimate,” blaming Obama for inflaming the RFK assassination response in the media, and, finally, “trying to show how tough you will be, at 3:00 am, if your foreign policy is so bad Iran attacks Israel and we have to OBLITERATE them.”
You see, anyone can play that game. The end of any age is difficult for everyone – best to just move on.
See Adam Nagourney here:
Bill and Hillary Clinton have been at the heart of the Democratic Party since Bill Clinton steered it back to the White House in 1992. Hillary Clinton seemed poised last year to lead the Democrats into the general election campaign if not beyond.
And while the relationship between the party establishment and the Clintons has always been uneasy, an entire generation of Democrats has known no other figures as dominant as the two of them.
Even as Senator Clinton insisted she would remain in the race, Democrats – including some of her own supporters – were confronting the likelihood that their tangle of ties to and feelings about the Clintons would be swept aside as the party prepares for a new era with a leader who comes from a different generation and promises a very different style of politics.
But such things happen:
Certainly, no one is expecting a couple with such political skills, an extended network, history and broad appeal – not to mention fund-raising power- to disappear from the Democratic stage. Hillary Clinton would presumably return to what could be a high-profile role in the Senate. Bill Clinton is only 61, and never has been the kind of politician happy on the sidelines.
But Senator Obama’s rise is fraught with symbolism and evidence of a party in transition. A first-time presidential candidate, he has so far outmaneuvered the Clinton political machine. He positioned his candidacy as a repudiation of the kind of politics the Clintons practiced and a generational break. He also drew thousands of new voters and donors into his fold.
“The Clintons had an important role in the recent history of the Democratic Party and will always play some role, given their success at bringing this country peace and prosperity,” said Democratic senator Edward Kennedy, who backed Senator Obama. “But elections are about the future, not the past. It’s a new era. This is a new spirit that’s out there.”
The new era may be a catastrophe. But it is here. There’s no point in assuming the worst and whining. Some good has already come of it.