Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It never seemed like Clinton knew who she was. And surprisingly that sometimes seemed like it included being a woman.

As we near the end of the Democratic caucus/primary season, many questions about the fall campaign are being discussed: Whom will Senator Obama select as a running mate? How will independent voters split between Senators Obama and McCain? How will Ohio and Florida go and will Virginia join their little club as a swing state? Etc., etc.

But looking backward, there is single question on everyone’s mind: What happened to the Clinton campaign?

Up until the Iowa caucus, Senator Clinton was considered the prohibitive front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. According to Scot LeHigh, she led Senator Obama in a Washington Post/ABC poll 53 percent to 20 percent and averaged a lead in national polls of 20 percentage points. She had all the money. She had the pick of the best staff. She had a big lead in endorsements from superdelegates before the first vote of the caucus/primary season started. She was the inevitable nominee.

How far we have come in less than a year.

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Senator Clinton herself has referred to the “glass ceiling” for women running for president. Of course, there seemed to be no glass ceiling for her just months ago when the above polls were taken. But it also seems to be dismissive of hurdles people with dark skin have had in a country that has not had a happy history on matters regarding race. Senator Obama had his own glass ceiling to crash through.

But as the Times story pointed out quoting Elaine Karmack she was an imperfect test case for the cause of women running for high office. She was running as somebody’s wife and that somebody was Bill Clinton. Association with former President Clinton is a mixed bag. Bill Clinton made as many friends as enemies while in Washington. Many Democrats admire him but others are disgusted -- and certainly many Republican fundraisers have profited from the Clinton name. Even for those with fond memories of the 90’s there was an element of Clinton fatigue. Not a few Democrats saw Senator Hillary Clinton as a Clinton first and a woman second (if at all).

And of course there was the bungled campaign. There was no post-Super Tuesday plan. There was no appreciation that this will be a “change” election when her campaign continually linked her to her husband’s past administration. She had no clear message as to why she should be president. Her campaign wrote off many states allowing Senator Obama to build a lead in delegates. She surrounded herself with a staff noted for their loyalty rather than their competence. Etc., etc.

There are many contributing factors as to why she lost but the quick answer for those uninterested in what actually happened is that it is because of sexism.

Shaun Mullen at The Moderate Voice has these thoughts on that matter:
Riding the first wave of the inevitable post-mortems about what went wrong for Hillary Clinton is an important question: To what extent did sexism play a role in her extraordinary crash and burn?

That begs another question without which the first cannot be addressed: To what extent did racism impede Barack Obama’s nevertheless triumphant march from obscurity to the verge of nomination?

The answers are that these twin isms certainly played significant roles in deflecting support from each candidate. After all, we’re talking America here, y’all. But certainly the Sour Grapes Squad at Clinton campaign HQ is not suggesting that over the long primary season there were more people turned off by the specter of a president in a pantsuit than an African-American in a three-piece suit.

That noted, some Clintonistas are deeply in denial about the overriding reason that Obama will be the first to cross the finish line, probably as early as tonight after Kentucky and Oregon vote:
Obama has earned the nomination by getting more voters and delegates without having to resort to appeals to break mutually agreed upon party rules like Clinton has. He also has run a much better campaign, and everything flows from that.

Here is some of that everything:
* Obama organized his campaign from the bottom up and with an eye on the long haul to November and the White House. Clinton organized her campaign from the top down with little thought to post-Super Tuesday concerns because it was assumed that she would have the nomination in the bag after the early primaries.

* Obama’s message was clear from Day One, if sometimes lacking in detail, and he never wavered from it. Clinton’s message was muddled from Day One and changed as her fortunes did.

* Bill Clinton. The most adept stump politician of our time became a huge liability because of his tone-deaf determination to keep going negative.

* Obama was a quicker learner. Despite a series of missteps and crises that would have sent a lesser candidate packing, some of them self inflicted like his association with the Reverend Wright, he has been far more adept than Clinton in turning political developments to his advantage.

* Clinton thought that by not conceding she could continue to campaign with however thin a veneer of credibility, but Obama has deftly one upped her by refusing to declare victory until she admits defeat.
To complete the circle, Clinton squandered an opportunity to hammer home her gender as an asset and instead used it as a crutch.

Using gender as a power point would have been somewhat risky, but for all of Clinton’s talk of leadership — and strong leaders are willing to take risks — the only risk she took was embracing the mud slinging that stopped what little momentum she had after she “found her voice” in New Hampshire.

Clinton campaigned before audiences dotted with “Iron My Shirt” signs, but never used these misogynists to talk about what made her run so personal and so historic. She declined media requests to go deep on arguably her most compelling story line, while she ham handedly used gender to try to evoke pity and to whine. This included tears-on-cue photo ops early in the primary season that deservedly provoked more ridicule than sympathy.

Finally, it never seemed like Clinton knew who she was. And surprisingly that sometimes seemed like it included being a woman.
The bottom line is the better candidate ran the better campaign and won. Period.


adrian2514 said...

Hey! I agree that Clinton seemed lost when it came to the image she was trying to present. Her waffling lead to this outcome! I was browsing through a bunch of political websites and blogs (mostly liberal ones) and I came across your blog and find it to be very interesting. There are a bunch of others I like too, like huff post, and other news sites like politico. Do you know of any that cover politics and the environment? I saw earthlab.com which has mostly environmental info but some politics. I took EarthLab.com’s carbon calculator (http://www.earthlab.com/signupprofile/). It was pretty easy to use (and it doesn’t make me feel guilty after I take it). Are there any other blogs you would recommend? Can you drop me a link to your favorites or any ones with green info?

Sisyphus said...


Thanks for checking this site out.

You didn't leave an email address so I assume you'll check back here. I am sure there are several blogs dealing with the environment almost exclusively. However, I don't follow them that closely. One I have listed below under resources is Real Climate at
http://www.realclimate.org/ .

I hope this helps.