Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reality for Hillary Clinton supporters

Well, I think I've devoted enough words to explaining why media sexism was not responsible for Hillary Clinton's loss in 2008. (1, 2, 3.) Now I just want to say something about the bigger picture. And this would apply even if you disagree with the previous posts -- that is, even if you're still convinced that media sexism played a role in her defeat.

Any presidential candidate is going to have to deal with the reality that the way the candidates are treated is always arbitrary and unfair. To the extent that Hillary Clinton's supporters are threatening to vote for John McCain despite all common sense (they should obviously prefer Obama on the merits), they're suggesting that they're simply unable to deal with reality.

I believe a woman can become president -- let's not shortchange her accomplishment in proving that a woman could be taken seriously as a Commander-in-Chief -- and I hope it happens sooner rather than later. But Hillary Clinton doesn't represent all women, and you're not doing women any favors if you suggest otherwise. She's one specific women, with all her many strengths and weaknesses. If it was wrong for Chris Matthews to doubt that she won her Senate seat "on her [own] merit," then it's just as wrong to doubt that she lost the nomination on her own merit too.

Her own staffers have offered up a litany of plausible-sounding explanations for why she lost. None of them have to do with media bias; they're about her own poor strategic decisions. Sample: "There was not any plan in place from beginning to end on how to win the nomination." Slight oversight. One staffer had this surprising assessment: "I just don't think she was hungry enough for it in the beginning." And of course, "the campaign inexplicably wrote off many states entirely."

And she lost because Obama ran such a brilliant campaign.

Oh, and remember the invasion of Iraq? That was kind of important.

I'm not saying she shouldn't run again in the future -- maybe she could rework her strategy and message, and win. That'd be OK with me. But if you're a Democrat who's interested in moving the country away from the disastrous Bush administration and into the future with a Democratic White House and Congress, you need to face reality. The reality is that politics is tough and unfair. You don't win by running a failed campaign and then spinning out alternate scenarios that would have been more fair and would have made your candidate win. You win by winning in the real world as it actually is right now . . . with all its flaws and prejudices and unfairness and silliness and arbitrariness.

If you disagree with this, you disagree with Hillary Clinton. After all, for most of her campaign, her number-one theme was that you should pick the person who'll be an effective "agent" -- the one who can actually get things done in the real world.

I mean, how was she planning on behaving as president? If she supported some piece of legislation that Congress failed to pass, was she planning on raising the (legitimate) complaint that the structure of the Senate is unfair to larger states, and then claiming a moral victory? That's what you would have to expect based on how she and her surrogates conducted themselves during the primaries.

And by the way, if you believe that the sexism in the primaries was unbearable -- literally, in the sense that it was so intense that she lost because of it -- then it's hard to see how you could agree with her that she would have been the most electable candidate. I mean, wouldn't you expect there to be more sexism against her in the general election than in the primaries?

But, of course, that's all irrelevant now. Or at least, it should be. If you want the kinds of policies that were advocated in the Democratic primaries (which Hillary admitted were largely identical from candidate to candidate) to be implemented sooner rather than later, the person who's going to do it is not going to be the loser Hillary Clinton, or the Republican John McCain, or the irrelevant Ralph Nader. If anyone's going to do it, it's going to be the winner, Barack Obama.


Zachary Sire said...

Hillary Clinton doesn't represent all women, and you're not doing women any favors if you suggest otherwise.

True. It sucks, for lack of a better word, that she was the first one out of the gate (in terms of women). It actually really, really sucks.

Now any other woman in the future is going to be compared to her, the woman with all the baggage that comes with the Clinton name.

It would've been better to have had a less polarizing woman to start us off; a Feinstein or a Pelosi or a MaCaskill.