Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hillary Clinton and doing the “right” thing

Senator Barack Obama reached an almost insurmountable lead in elected delegates to the Democratic Convention months ago in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Senator Clinton’s only hope for the nomination was that she could either piece together huge wins in the remaining primaries to take the lion’s share of delegates allocated proportionately under the Democratic Party rules and/or at least put together significant wins that might not deliver enough elected delegates but would impress the party’s superdelegates she was somehow the more desirable candidate.

The elected delegate strategy was impossible from the beginning because of the late date the Clinton campaign realized it was in trouble. By that point it would require winning all the remaining contests by margins of 60-to-70 percent. Therefore, her only real hope was to minimize losses and show significant wins elsewhere to impress undecided superdelegates. It was within this framework that the expectations were set for last Tuesday’s primaries that she needed to keep an anticipated loss in North Carolina to low single digits and then win by a wide margin in Indiana (supposedly more representative of her so-called base).

Unfortunately, for her the outcome was just the opposite. She lost by a wide margin in North Carolina and barely won Indiana.

The race is over but her campaign continues.

Bitter races for presidential nominations have been factors in working against the eventual nominees in November elections. The 1976 Republican race and the 1980 Democratic race come to mind. The losing candidates did not gracefully exit when their defeat had become clear. However, unlike the current race, those candidates had reasons beyond personality to press their cases. Ronald Reagan was representing the conservative challenge to the moderate (at least as President) Gerald Ford in 1976. Ted Kennedy represented the liberal challenge to the moderate Jimmy Carter in 1980. There were real issues these candidates disagreed about.

There are no issues of significance that Senators Obama and Clinton disagree about. Various politicos are weighing the pros and cons of Senator Clinton staying in the race as an active candidate. Marc Ambinder says there is a consensus among Clinton’s inner circle that she should stay in the race but there is no consensus why she should stay in the race.

With no clear reason for a campaign many of her supporters argue that she should stay in because she has a right to run. Well, of course she has a right to run but so what? If her reason for running is simply because she has the right to run then it becomes clear why her campaign failed to inspire the imagination of the American voters.

But that brings us back to why she continues to run when the risks for creating ever greater divisions within the Democratic Party and thus possibly damaging the Democratic nominee’s chances in November. This campaign is incredibly expensive and this race is sucking up Democratic money that should be going to state and congressional races. Plus her campaign is in debt and digging itself in deeper but presumably will expect the Obama campaign or the DNC to pick up the tab as a gesture of good will toward her. So why is this race continuing?

Well, she has the right. Here are Rosa Brooks’ thoughts on her right to run:
Is it finally time for Hillary Rodham Clinton to give up?

After Tuesday's North Carolina and Indiana primaries, Barack Obama has added to his virtually insurmountable lead in delegates and the popular vote, but Clinton's still hanging in there. Depending on your political preferences, she's like the Energizer Bunny ... or Rocky ... or the zombies in "Night of the Living Dead."

I know, I know, Clinton has a right to stay in the race. In fact, the issue of her "rights" has become the dominant framework within which her supporters defend her continued candidacy. In early March, after 11 straight Obama wins, Clinton superdelegate Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California denounced calls for Clinton to drop out, asserting that "she has every right to stay in the race if she chooses to do so." Now, her supporters lose few opportunities to remind us that Clinton enjoys a God-given right to stay in the Democratic nominating race, more or less forever.

Even Ralph Nader has jumped to defend Clinton's "rights." "Don't listen to people when they tell you not to run anymore," he urged her. "That's just political bigotry. Listen to your own inner citizen First Amendment voice. This is America. Just like every other citizen, you have a right to run. Whenever you like. For as long as you like."

The Obama camp seemed unable to buck this rhetorical framework. Top surrogates hastily forswore any effort to persuade Clinton to leave the race. "[Clinton] has every right to stay in the race," New Mexico governor and former presidential hopeful turned Obama backer Bill Richardson assured the media.

But how did the question of whether or not Clinton should drop out of the Democratic race turn into a question of whether or not she has a "right" to keep running?

As far as I can tell, no one -- not in the media, not in the Obama camp, not on the Republican side -- has questioned Clinton's "right" to stay in the race. What many have wondered -- at first quietly, then with increasing volume -- is whether Clinton is right to stay in the race.

That's "right," as in "sensible" and "responsible" -- not "rights," as in "I can do as I darn well please." With Clinton's prospects of victory in the nominating contest near zero -- and poll data suggesting that the bitter, protracted contest poses real dangers for the Democratic Party come November -- it's a fair issue for Democrats and the media to raise.

Much of the time, "rights" arguments are red herrings, designed to keep you from seeing the real issues: Will Clinton hurt the Democratic Party if she continues a divisive race? …

… framing absolutely everything in terms of rights risks creating a boy-who-cried-wolf situation. When every squabble leads people to squawk about their threatened rights, we tune out. Rights, rights, rights, yada, yada, yada. Then, when serious threats to rights come along -- attacks on habeas corpus, for instance -- who's gonna notice, or care?

So Clinton -- and all the rest of us -- should feel free to do as Nader advises: "Listen to your own inner citizen First Amendment voice."

But sometimes, if you listen carefully, you just might hear that voice urging you to get a grip -- and do the right thing.
You can read her entire piece here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hillary needs to stay in the race. Obama is a horrible candidate. He doesn't need Hillary to hurt his chances in November - the more we know about him, the less we like. He'll implode under his own lack of experience and poor associations. He'll lose to McCain and we'll have more Republicans in office. This is why Hillary needs to stay in the race, and the superdelegates need to do the right thing and give her the nomination.