Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chilling Out

I think Hillary Rodham Clinton is politically radioactive and always has been. I don't think it is all entirely her fault, nor her husband's, but the fact remains that for a complex cocktail of reasons, she is a lightening rod for large swaths of the voting public and though the vastly greater part of their hatred for her is stupidly irrational, misogynistic, bigoted and unevolved, it is not entirely without some basis. She demeanor is off-putting. From anything except a red state street-cred building perspective, her voting record in the Senate hovers somewhere between mixed and shameful. She and her husband together may make for a rockstar pair when allowed to be the unchallenged king and queen of the Democratic prom, but their survival mechanisms are truly ugly to behold when they have to defend their status.

As one of her constituents - a constituent who has voted for her twice, mind you - I still see her as a coldly calculating political operative who is incapable of having an honest emotion, other than a raw thirst for power. Up to now, that's been fine. I knew what she and Bubba were up to when they selected New York for their post-White House life. I've just been glad she wasn't on the other team and as far as bringing it home for New York, apart from larger more statesman-like concerns, she has represented The Empire State just fine.

But she does have some very steep negatives.

In other words, I kinda, sorta buy into a diluted, de-fanged version of the Washington-insider/Rethugli-bot/Rush Limpblob caricature of her as a the type of person to cold-bloodedly murder Vince Foster and then cover it up. No, I don't actually think she's a murderer or any of the other inhuman things the Reich-wing blowhards accuse her of (without actually believing it themselves - it's just to tap the lizard brains of the rubes and shit-kickers), but I do think she's a coldly calculating manipulator, just as is her husband, if slightly less skilled. As is, frankly, any politician who is any good. Including Obama.

In the face of an unrelenting assault from the right, and the inevitable and equally relentless capitulation on the part of the Dems, for the last several, well, decades, the Clintons may have been imperfect warriors, but they were our warriors. I was not a fan of Bill Clinton's, but I would never admit to anyone from across the aisle that I didn't like him or his wife, because then it would seem like we agreed that he deserved what was happening to him. My reasons for not liking Bill Clinton were precisely the 180ยบ opposite of theirs. They hated him because he was not enough like them - too smart, too cultured and right about Vietnam and Civil Rights; for me he was too much one of them - too quick to appease the hell-hounds of The Right, to sell out his left-wing and otherwise affect a good ol' boy persona in an attempt to keep the haters from hating him too terribly much. In other words, a phony, a suck-up and a striver. But he and his wife were the best we had in a difficult situation.

Until, that is - amid a deepening BushCo dystopian winter - a broken and defeated Al Gore emerged, phoenix-like, from the shadow of the Clintons to cleave to Howard Dean and become something almost more than human at the same time that the inter-webs resurrected a moribund progressive movement by way of a hivemind army of bloggers and activists. Something new was emerging and this flawed man and his equally flawed wife, who had been the storm wall The Left needed as a bulwark against the hurricane of eliminationist, single-party-state Reich-wing power that reached landfall during his administration, began to appear as surviving relics from another, darker era. Impeachment had been the hammer blow which expended the hurricane's energy. That the two of them remained standing amid such fury is worthy of mine and everyone else's respect, but the world has changed and Hillary has not.

In many ways, the very character traits that allowed the Clintons to weather Newt Gingrich's "Contract on America" storm, traits baked into the very porcelain of their political shells by decades in Arkansas politics, are exactly not what America and the Democrats need now - traits that manifest as DLC/centrist/"third-way" triangulation. Survival tactics of the abused, not a vision with an actual corresponding strategy. Hillary, like her husband, is a reflexive dinosaur, a relic from another era when cackling neanderthal Dixiecrats and unreconstructed Nixonite operatives colluded with their pearl-clutching financiers in the hippie-hating Old Money crowd to remake the stodgy GOP in their image while the Dems for the first time in their 150-year history were forced to learn how to hold on to power without a Southern Wing. Hence, they developed a fetish for drawlin' white southerners.

It has been a steep and painful 40-year learning curve for everyone involved, including the electorate. The object portion of the lesson for them has yet to truly endeth, BTW, as the repercussions for decades of believing GOP hype are just now starting to make themselves felt. As the economy craters and our infrastructure crumbles and the oil runs out and the planet heats up, those lessons will echo down for generations to come. At any rate, despite the fact that he had the second-best progressive bona fides in the Democratic field (and I supported him for it), the era of the white male with a Southern drawl as the only viable Democratic candidate ended ironically when John Edwards exited stage left.

Which is why I only partially agree with Lance Mannion when he writes:
Obama was traveling inside a protective shield made up of the Beltway Insiders' Clinton-hatred. As is becoming clear, once she's out of the way, that shield will be powered down. Obama will be just the Democrat running for President and if there's anybody the Insiders' loathe and despise nearly as much as they loathe and despise the Clintons it's any Democrat who runs for President.

The longer the primary campaign has gone on the more lessons Obama has had to learn about what it's going to be like in the fall.

---It's infuriating the Beltway Insiders.

They have been rooting from the beginning to see Clinton humiliated. Way back when, when the show was just getting started and they were declaring that her nomination was inevitable, they were consoling themselves with the hope that Rudy Giuliani would mop up the floor with her in November. Then they saw that Obama had a chance to give them what they wanted a lot sooner, with the bonus of giving them another Democrat whose humiliation in November they could root for and aid and abet.

They've wanted nothing more than to be able to laugh at her in defeat and declare that it proof that the country had rejected...Bill Clinton, at long last.

It's always been about Whitewater.
Yes, Lance, that's true. And yes, I am somewhat guilty of being too invested in the whole thing to be truly objective about who should or should shouldn't leave the race. I follow it every day. The only ones really suffering from "Clinton-fatigue" are the Washington insiders who have always hated Hillary and the political junkies who follow this stuff every single day. But Ma & Pa Peoria don't know and don't care. For them and the average Democrat in "fly-over country," the race has been invigorating and a real-life, real-time extension of Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy. For the first time in most of their political careers, and especially in the entire lives of the young and enthusiastic who are the life-blood of any campaign's ground game, what they think matters and someone in power cares to learn what that is.

I don't think it is Pollyana-ish to think that all of this could actually be good for the party. Washington insiders are the ones who always proclaim - no matter what "it" is - that "it" is good for Republicans and bad for Democrats; heads the GOP wins, tails the Democrats lose. The media have become a self-policing spin-zone for Rethugli-bot talking points. That comfortable bubble is being invaded by history (reality having a well-known liberal bias) and even if Obama may not be as progressive as I and many of my fellow-travellers on The Left would like, he is so much more the Man of the Moment than his opponent - who is burdened by baggage not entirely of her making, but for which she nevertheless liable.

Digby, as per usual, boils all this down pretty nicely and puts it into historical perspective:
I maintain my belief that this campaign is being driven by seismic forces in the political firmament that transcend personality. This isn't 1972 or 1984 or even 1988, no matter what people say. The Democrats aren't running against Republican incumbents or even a popular Republican predecessor. The economy is rapidly deteriorating. We are in the midst of a moneypit, quagmire overseas and there actually are terrorists out there who require attention. Oh --- and the US is now considered to be a force for evil in the world due to the fact that we kidnap people off the streets of foreign countries, torture them and keep them in prison without trials or any hope of being set free. Oh, and we invade countries based on lies.

We are in a hell of a mess and the country knows exactly who is responsible for it. They will logically vote accordingly. But with the economy now a huge part of the equation, I don't think political reform is the best campaign theme for Democrats. It's early enough for him to pivot off reform and put some meat on the bones of the Hope and Change message. But he should do it soon. The Democratic candidate can ride to victory on a tsunami, but he or she still needs to stay with the wave.
All of which is to say, I think this whole nomination fight has been a tough one because it had to be. We are fighting for the soul of the party and we are fighting for the life of our beleaguered nation. Such transitions are never pretty or clean or bloodless. Nor should they be. If they were easy, they wouldn't be powerful enough to actually change things for the better (I'm looking at you, you starry-eyed Reagan-Revolutionaries).

Bottom line: I am resentful that I find myself once again via a vis the Clintons with a political opinion that superficially resembles one held by my mortal enemies in the Reich-wing. I don't really hate Hillary Clinton, I just think her time has passed. My fear that she is damaging the party could very well be just so much Chicken-Little-ism, but I grant that I could be just buying the hype.

Time will tell.

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