Sunday, June 08, 2008

Clinton suspends campaign and endorses Obama

Senator Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency and endorsed Senator Barack Obama Saturday. (You can read the entire text of her speech here.)

Considered the inevitable nominee prior to the Iowa caucuses her campaign stumbled badly in the early weeks of the primary and caucus season. Senator Obama gained a slim but insurmountable lead in delegates (due to proportional allocation rules) by March. Her campaign had no real plan beyond Super Tuesday and was too slow to respond to the challenge for change by the young Senator from Illinois.

Yet there was another problem for Clinton aside from her ineffective campaign organization. While she never hesitated to promote her candidacy as possibly the first women to be elected president of the United States, the reality was she was running as someone’s wife. Was she going to make a radical break with tradition and barriers by being the first woman elected President or was she going to be the third term for Bill Clinton’s administration? Yet, even as radical as feminist identity politics was at one time, it too was as much a relic of the past as the Clinton administration of the 90’s. The appeal of Barack Obama was the true liberalism he represented (and still does) running against the politics of the past – both the Washington insider mentality as well as race and gender identity politics. Senator Hillary Clinton rode the wave of the old politics to power but also was imprisoned by it.

Andrew Sullivan sums it up:

Senator Clinton did all she needed to do: thanked everyone and unequivocally endorsed and supported Barack Obama. One theme stuck out to me: she essentially said that even though she was careful to avoid ever saying that she was running because she was a woman and that people should vote for her because she is a woman, that's what she believes in private. That's the theme she spoke of most compellingly. She is Ellen Malcolm's spiritual sister. In the end, Clinton remains wedded to the identity politics of her generation and her time. It's a powerful message after so many long decades and centuries in which women have been denied full equality in law and society. It's a necessary message and a moral message. But it becomes circular and self-defeating when it becomes its own rationale.

I think history will show that she didn't quite have the talent to do it on her own steam, but that she made it much easier for another woman to become president one day. Her two biggest problems: She first married a man who was her political superior and was then defeated by one. She is a very talented politician but it was her fate to find her career hemmed in by two even more talented ones: Bill and Barack. She made up for it all with enormous hard work, diligence and ruthlessness. At any other moment, she would have won. But this is history and politics at the highest level. You cannot defeat such a moment if you are a Salieri. And she had to deal with two Mozarts.

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