Thursday, April 24, 2008

What has Hillary Clinton proved?

Hillary Clinton has proved that in a 2-way race for the Democratic nomination, she can occasionally win the support of a majority of the party base. (With the likely help of Republicans hoping to thwart Obama, i.e., Rush Limbaugh's -- or maybe James Carville and Mary Matalin's -- Operation Chaos.)

But as her own negatives keep rising, she can do so only by exploiting every niggling fear that some voters have of a nonpandering liberal "black" man. Clinton wins only be destroying Barack Obama, not by appealing to voters herself.

The fact is, very little separates these two candidates policywise. The question is their respective abilities to deliver, and that makes it a a question of style and philosophy. Clinton's experience is politics as a fierce battle, yet all she talks about is convening commissions to study every controversial issue. Obama's experience is that there is more that unites us than divides us, which Clinton tries to make into a scary fairy tale. Her top-down view of power relies on dividing to conquer. There's no place for someone like Obama -- and the people he's attracting support from -- in her plantation politics.

Clinton acts as if her votes are exclusively hers. That is absurd. It is unlikely that a majority of Democrats would not vote for the Democratic nominee in November.

Or is Clinton's stubborn message -- stupidly echoed by the media -- that she has riled up enough fearful ignorant racists that it could throw the election to McCain if Obama were the nominee? She certainly has never come to his defense (as Obama has come to hers many times) when the campaign veers that way. In fact, she has fanned it herself, as in her reply on 60 Minutes about the convenient mistaken perception that Obama is Muslim: "No, there is nothing to base that on. As far as I know."

While everybody worries that because Obama did not get the votes of a certain demographic he won't be able to get them when Clinton is no longer a choice, they don't ask the converse: could Clinton attract the votes of the demographics that strongly support Obama? Those voters have put him well in the lead for the nomination, and the number that Clinton has alienated with her race-baiting, fear-mongering, and attacks on Moveon.org is likely to far outnumber her dwindling core of white supremacists.