Sunday, March 09, 2008

Are Clinton's Attacks on Obama Destroying Dem's Chances if Obama Wins Nomination?

A friend of ours sent this article that appears on the New Republic's website. Entitled "Go Already", the author, Jonathon Chait, makes the argument that the campaign Clinton is waging against Obama will really hurt the Democrats' chances of winning the White House if he is the nominee.

This is from the article:

That means, as we all have grown tired of hearing, that she would need to win with superdelegates. But, with most superdelegates already committed, Clinton would need to capture the remaining ones by a margin of better than two to one. And superdelegates are going to be extremely reluctant to overturn an elected delegate lead the size of Obama's. The only way to lessen that reluctance would be to destroy Obama's general election viability, so that superdelegates had no choice but to hand the nomination to her. Hence her flurry of attacks, her oddly qualified response as to whether Obama is a Muslim ("not as far as I know"), her repeated suggestions that John McCain is more qualified.

He makes the argument that if she spends seven weeks attacking him in Pennslyvania, a swing state in the fall, it will hurt his chances of winning that state in November. He raises the question of whether the Republican Party could have carried Florida in 2000 if someone had spent seven weeks attacking Bush that spring. Here is how Chait puts it:

Imagine in 2000, or 2004, that George W. Bush faced a primary fight that came down to Florida (his November must-win state). Imagine his opponent decided to spend seven weeks pounding home the theme that Bush had a dangerous plan to privatize Social Security. Would this have improved Bush's chances of defeating the Democrats? Would his party have stood for it?

A problem that Clinton has is that, in the past, the Clintons have appeared willing to jeopardize Democratic chances of winning elections if it meant that they would win themselves. Robert Reich wrote a recent article for AlterNet in which he laid this tendency right at the doorstep of Hillary Clinton. Here is how he put it:

I suppose I should not be surprised. If Hillary Clinton has experience in anything, it's in fighting when cornered. When Bill Clinton lost his governorship, it was Hillary Clinton who commissioned Dick Morris to advise the Clintons on a no-holds-barred campaign to retake the governor's mansion. At the start of 1995, when Newt Gingrich and company took over Congress and the Clinton administration looked in danger of becoming irrelevant, it was Hillary Clinton who installed Dick Morris in the White House, along with his sidekick Mark Penn, to "triangulate" by distancing Bill Clinton from the Democratic Party and moving the Administration rightward. (When Morris was subsequently discovered to have a penchant for the toes of prostitutes the White House dumped him but kept Penn on.) And now Mark Penn is the "chief strategist" of Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Like Chait, he also points out the harm such a "scorched earth" policy could cause:

The sad news is that whether the Clinton scorched-earth strategy ultimately succeeds or fails, it will have caused great harm. In the unlikely event it succeeds, the result will be a shame and not a little ironic. Barack Obama has breathed life into the Democratic Party, and into American politics, for the first time in forty years. Not since Robert Kennedy ran for president has America been so starkly summoned to its ideals; not since then has America -- including, especially, the nation’s youth -- been so inspired.

The Clintons would prefer to write off Obamania as a passing fad, but the reality is that idealism and inspiration are necessary preconditions for positive social change. Nothing happens in Washington unless Americans are energized and mobilized to make it happen. Hillary Clinton's tactics are the old politics the nation is recoiling from -- internal division and national fear. This only serves to deepen Americans' cynicism about politics, and makes social change all the harder to achieve.

There is a tendency among some Clinton supporters to write off any criticism of her, especially if it is made by men. Reich, however, is a former Secretary of Labor for Bill Clinton and Jonathon Chait is no left-wing crazy. When people like Reich and Chait start suggesting that Clinton's campaign style is doing more harm than good, it is time to listen.

All of this is not to say we believe that Clinton should drop out. She has a right to campaign for President up and until Obama gets enough committed delegates to clinch the nomination. What she doesn't have the right to do is damage the Democratic Party's chances of winning in the fall. This election is too important to some of the most vulnerable members of our society for her to take that approach.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not only is she damaging Obama's chances in the fall, she is also damaging her own. Prior to her attacks the weekend before Ohio's primary, I would have been happy to vote for either in Nov. Now, I am in a huge quandary if she were to become the nominee. I don't yet know if I can settle down and forgive her by Nov. I am disgusted by her antics! Today the answer is NO. Hopefully by then, if she does manage to weasel her way in, will be different. But it will be holding my nose to be sure. Obama continues to out class her by leaps and bounds and take the high road. How long can he keep doing that in the face of her antics? Shame on YOU Senator Clinton!