Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Conspiracy theories.

An ugly little meme is crawling its way out of the Pro-Clinton blogs. It is the claim that a small group of left/liberals has hijacked the nomination process and imposed their candidate Barack Obama on the uninformed masses. Some how this cabal has gamed the system to “steal” the Democratic party from “the people” for their elite purposes. Where to begin unraveling this particular cloth?

How about with this bit of wisdom:

Uffelman's Razor:
[Given Murphy's law, ...] One should not attribute to evil design any unfortunate result which can be attributed to error. A mistake (or series of mistakes) is the simpler and more likely explanation.
Conspiracy Corollary to Uffelman's Razor:
Nothing should be attributed to conspiracy that can be explained by error or a succession of errors.

Using Murphy and Uffelman as our guides is there a way to explain how the “unfortunate result” of Barack Obama possible victory can be explained? Let’s give it our best shot.

First and foremost is the reality that the Democratic Party nominates its candidate by delegates. Thus it has been, perhaps thus it will remain. Democratization of the delegate selection process means that ordinary voters have a voice in the selection. Some states have even widened the franchise so that Independents and Republicans have a voice in Democratic Party Primaries. Still the whole process is geared toward selection delegates; not gaining an absolute number of votes.

Second because the Democratic Party uses a proportional system delegates are hard to come by. The playing field gets oddly tilted toward second place finishers. Hillary did much worse in the delegate count then she would have done in if a winner-takes-all system was in place. Her blow outs in Ohio and Pennsylvanian netted her very few additional delegates.

This brings us to the Third item Caucuses. No matter who gets the brass ring in this nomination fight the Democratic Party has to fix (read eliminate) the caucuses. Caucuses are antidemocratic. They suppress the vote, they are unwieldy, they are too easily gamed by intimidation tactics, they tilt too far toward the small section of party activists. While political junkies love them because they are good indication of organizational strength, they are a house of horrors for a party looking for the best candidate to run in a General Election. Obama was able to wipe out Clinton’s PA gains by winning some caucuses the next week. Those states were so insignificant in the General that they slip the mind today.

The forth item for discussion links directly to the third. Simply put Marc Penn had no business running Hillary’s campaign and neither did Patti Solis Doyle. This is where Uffelman’s “mistake (or series of mistakes)” really comes into play. The first mistake was selecting Penn and Solis-Doyle to positions of trust in Hillary’s run for President. Penn has numerous problems that should have put him out of the running. The man basically shills for every corporate bad actor out there. When he isn’t doing that he is shilling for suspect governments. It was incredibly foolish to have Penn working on both Hillary’s campaign and the Columbian free trade agreement too. At best it was a mixed message to Hillary’s blue-collar base. At worst it was an affirmation of the Hillary haters point that she was a corporate tool and part of “business as usual.” Adding insult to injury Penn was flat-out incompetent. With all that polling data he failed to see that 2008 was a “change” election. He failed to see that running an “inevitability” campaign was a recipe for catastrophic blow-back. The voters want a fresh breeze in Washington. Actually they want a gust of hurricane proportions. Seven years of the Bush presidency has left them in a very foul mood. The experience meme and the inevitability meme were absolute poison for HRC. Voters noticed the fresh, young, black face of Barack Obama and headed towards that bright twinkling light. The Borg-like message of Penn- resistance is futile, you must submit to Hillary- died an ugly death in the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Hillary’s candidacy nearly died in NH; she had to fight and claw her way back from the brink of elimination. She won in NH because of the same anti- inevitability feeling of the voters there. NH voters wanted the discussion to continue- they were not going to let Obama ride to any easy victory because of media hype. After that near death experience Hillary should have tossed Penn right underneath the bus. She should have also heaved Solis-Doyle under the Greyhound as well. The Hail Mary pass that was NH proved that Solis-Doyle just did not have the chops to run a national campaign. Maybe she has learned from Hillary’s run and will do a better job next time. This time she just was not ready for prime time. She was just too inexperienced to do a competent job.

What is really puzzling about Team Hillary is how her best political adviser failed her. Bill has become a best a mixed blessing. He knows what it takes to win; how the hell did Marc Penn get him to sign on to his flawed strategy? Where was Bill’s keen electoral radar? He of all people should have known to have a plan B if Super Tuesday turned out to be less than super. Instead he has flow off the rails multiple times. Instead he has suffered repeated bouts of foot-in-mouth disease. Much has been made about Obama’ bitter remarks; but the bitterest man seems to be Bill. His comments about how he and his spouse got shafted are in a way truly sad.

Bill was president for eight years. His entanglement in the Lewinski scandal was a tempest of his own making. If he had followed Nancy Reagan’s advice and just said no to Monica’s offer her would have been home clear. Still that scandal should have burned into his very soul how the Moron Media works.

The Media cares about one thing-money. As ratings help drive ad revenues and ad revenues are how the Media make money, the Media are in a constant search to draw in eyeballs. Titillation, scandal, conflict, and good visuals; that is the name of the game in media. Bill Clinton of all people knows the way the News cycle is driven. Instead of complaining about the corporate media he should have found a way to push back. He and Hillary knew or should have known about all the bad feeling toward them. He and Hillary should have learned something from Al Gore about the viciousness of the Media pack. When Terrible Timmy started waving that silly paper about during the debate both Hillary and Bill should have pushed back hard against him. The Media’s besotted love affair with Obama and dislike of the Clintons is not exactly a deep dark secret. A better run campaign would have found a way to mitigate those facts on the ground.

Moving from the Moron Media to the DNC, we find a charge of nefarious anti-Clinton dealings. No one has gotten more flack from Clintonistas than Howard Dean. In 2006 Howard and his 50 state strategy was lauded by all Democratic partisans. The party professionals were pleasantly surprised that Howard’s ideas worked. Howard was the choice of the Netroots and grassroots activists not the Clinton crowd. Part of the Clintonian objection to Howard stems from his beating their choice for DNC chair.

The other issue with the DNC is structural. As DNC chair Howard Dean has to look out for the best interests of the party. Put bluntly, the best interest of the party is to have a nominee sooner rather than later. The best interest of the party is not to reconfigure the rules and traditions of the Democratic Party in the midst of a primary fight. The best interests of the party do not include a floor fight at the convention. Howard Dean did not create the insane rules of the Democratic Party; his job is to enforce them. It is not Howard Dean’s job to crown the best candidate. While he has a stake in the party finding the best candidate for the general election he also has an obligation to follow the rules of the party as written. He can not game the system for either for Hillary or Barack.

Take the RBC for example. While he can push some conversations into the back room, he has no way to enforce his will on the RBC. The public hearings were acrimonious enough; exactly how much dirty laundry do Clintonistas want washed in public? Dean decided that further public discussions would be counter productive. It may have been a bad call. But it was a call made to preserve the party; not to shaft Hillary Clinton. It does the party no good to have almost half its members sneering at the need for unity and creating organizations like PUMA.

The my ball- my game meme of the Clinton supporters is dumb and divisive. The RBC was trying to make the best of a bad situation. There was the Florida vote and the Michigan vote and some resolution was needed. Obama’ vote was suppressed by his own tactics and by his inability to campaign. Does anyone doubt that Obama would have done much better in Michigan, specifically in Detroit, if he were on the ballot and if people knew that their votes would really matter after all? The four extra delegates were a recognition that Obama delegate count suffered from voter suppression.

Clinton supporters sneering rejection of the fact of voter suppression is spectacularly tone deaf. Voter suppression was used to steal the elections of 2000 and 2004. Voter suppression, specifically voter ID laws, will be used for Republican advantage in 2008. The sooner the Clinton supporters realize this sad fact the better prepared they will be. If she is the nominee, voter suppression will be used against Hillary Clinton. The only good Democratic position is to push back on voter suppression. The only good democratic position is that voter suppression is un-American and should have no part in deciding any election. Remember, if your position is that of guardian of the will of the people then you have to push back on all the dirty tricks that suppress that popular will.

The RBC did what it considered was best. Did Obama game the system to gain advantage? Yes he did. Did Hillary try to game the system to prevent Obama from gaining any Michigan delegates? Yes she did. Team Obama was better prepared and outplayed Team Clinton. Team Clinton’s intransigence and attempt to get what the RBC could not deliver, all of the Michigan delegates, is what lost the argument for Hillary. Still it would have been best if the RBC had given just the uncommitted delegates to Obama. Never hand the Clinton forces a bat to beat you with.

In a way , it is too bad that Howard Dean is not as all powerful as the Clintons partisans proclaim he is. If he had any real fortitude he would have gotten rid of Donna Brazile ages ago. The woman is a public relations disaster. She has needlessly insulted Clinton supporters on a daily basis. Her e-mail missives should be held up of example of how to make enemies and disinfluence people. The claim that she is in the tank for Obama has merit. For that reason alone, just the appearance of bias, she should have been let go. Her poor public relation skills only emphasize the need for her departure. This is not proof that Howard is in league with Donna, just that he has poor HR skills. Jettisoning a high profile black woman in the DNC is very problematic anyway. Howard Dean may be politically stuck with Donna. If Howard Dean had CEO hire/fire powers the DNC might look a whole lot different.

One might ask about the impending Obama campaign take over of the DNC organization. This has more to do with organizational inertia than anything else. Hillary Clinton has been unable to stop Barack Obama’s momentum. He is the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination. Those are the bare facts. The pols that run the DNC are going to go with the man who is ahead. This is an institutional bias. Ever since John McCain nailed down the Elephant nod, the Democratic elders desperately wanted the process to create a nominee. Their bias was not toward Obama per se, but to the candidate who was ahead. Institutionally the DNC wants to be up and running with the presumptive nominee as soon as he or she becomes apparent. It is nothing personal; the DNC is just going with the smart money. They want to be ready when he gets the nod. Hillary’s chances for the nomination are so remote that the DNC is no longer hedging its bets. Nothing conspiratorial going on here; it is all about momentum and who has it.

The final error that can explain Hillary’s precarious position can be summed up in one word—Iraq. Her vote for the use of force is why she got side-swiped by Barack. Without that vote the progressive wing of the party had no real working objection to Hillary’s candidatecy. Not that there is any love lost between Hillary and the left wing of the party, their distaste for each other is a matter of record. The Iraq vote though gave the progressive/liberal wing of the party a huge club to beat down Hillary with. The core of the left/liberal opposition to Hillary is the Iraq vote. This was a bear trap of her own making. She again positioned herself as a general election candidate and forgot how the primaries are much more left-leaning than the general. What looked like smart politics, supporting a president with stratospheric approval ratings, became the mother of all albatrosses hung around her neck.

Clintonistas there is no conspiracy to undermine your gal. Conspiracies require organization, something the Democratic Party lacks. The Democratic Party dis-organization bears no resemblance to the well oiled Republican Machine. The Democrats are more like an amorphous, gelatinous mass- hard to get moving into any particular direction but once moving hard to stop. The Democratic blob is now rolling toward Barack Obama. The blobs kinetic motion began in February and it has oozed its way around all the Clintonian road blocks that were set up to impede its progress. This is all about Newton’s first law of motion and nothing more. Clinton never found the right amount of force to overcome Obama’s February build up of inertia. If she does run again, she will know the real path to victory- it’s the delegates and nothing else.

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