Thursday, June 5, 2008

It was more than Misogyny, Hillary and the Progressive Movement.

Now that Hillary’s tent will be stricken it is a good time to ask how her defeat came to pass. This was a woman who should have just breezed into the nomination. She and her husband Bill were the king and queen of the Democratic Party. They had most of the Party Machinery behind them. She had name recognition and she had the historic role as the first female candidate with a shot at winning the nomination.

But it all went horribly wrong in Iowa. She came in third falling behind John Edwards. This set a trend where Hillary was routinely loosing in Caucus states. The only Caucus state she did well in was Nevada. After Nevada she was routinely getting blown out by Barack Obama in the Caucuses. Why?

Hillary lost the caucuses because she lost the votes of the party activists. If the Democratic Party primary season skews toward the left, and it does, the caucuses skew even more in that direction. Unfortunately for Hillary, the left wing of the party has a very long memory. They remember Bill’s term of office and none too fondly.

Bill Clinton brand of “moderate” Democratic governance drove the progressives crazy. He was part of the hated DLC branch of the Party. The DLC was pro business, socially moderate, fiscally sound, and hawkish on foreign policy. Bill and friends practiced “triangulation”; critics called it “being Republican lite.” There was and remains real anger with the Clintons for things like NAFTA, the dismantling of welfare, the bank “reform” bill, and other policies of Bill’s eight years in office. Progressives fault Bill for not pushing back hard enough on the Republicans. They fault him for his quick surrender on core progressive policies and programs and his gaming of peripheral issues. Progressives hated Bill’s V-chip proposal almost as much as the right-wing ideologues.

As a presidential candidate Hillary would always be viewed as suspect by the Progressive Base of the party. She got off on the absolute wrong foot when she proposed a flag burning amendment in the well of the Senate. While such pandering might play well in a general election, it is absolute poison to the tree-hugging, latte-sipping, ACLU card holding, Volvo-driving, peace-love-and-granola crowd. The ABC movement (Anybody But Clinton) had its genesis in that ham-handed effort by Hillary to prove her DLC bone fides. This is not to say that misogyny was not a large part of anti-Hillary meme. It was; especially amongst the KOSsack crowd. But underneath all that slime was a deeper dislike for Hillary that was based in her DLC based political DNA. Reread Molly Ivin’s January 2006 post. The progressive case against Hillary is all there; in all its sound and fury.

What really sunk Hillary though was her support for the Iraq war. Her vote for Authorization to Use Force earned her the deep and abiding hate of the Left Wing of the Democratic Party. Where there was a vague unease with Hillary before that vote; after the vote opposition to her crystallized. She did herself no favors by failing to back away from that vote as soon as possible. She should have taken a page from John Edwards and apologized for her vote. A simple admission of error in Iowa or New Hampshire might have helped her. Instead, she looked past the primaries and toward the General. Her calculation that an admission of error or lack of steadfastness would hurt her in the General election ruined her in the Caucus states. She might have been right; the Republicans might have played the misogyny card on her. They definitely would have accused her of flip-flopping on the Iraq war. This would have been a double whammy for Hillary. She would have gotten hit on being an indecisive woman and on being a flip-flopping Clinton. Instead she got nailed as a stubborn, wrongheaded, arrogant war monger.

But what really sealed the deal for anti-war Democrats was Kyl-Lieberman. Someone in her campaign staff was definitely asleep at the switch when this issue came up. Someone should have realized that Joe Lieberman is quite possibly the Democrat Liberals most like to hate. While besotted Media Types and Republicans love to point out how moderate the man is; the Progressive movement views Lieberman as a traitor to the Democratic Party cause. They see Lieberman as a 5th column in the party; giving aid, comfort and cover to George W Bush’s disastrous foreign policy. Someone in Hillary’s organization should have warned her of the train wreck that was about to occur.

Instead, Hillary voted for Kyl-Lieberman. Once again she looked past the primaries and toward the General. She wanted to look tough on Iran. She wanted to project a Maggie Thatcher persona. She got to be the Iron Lady on Iran; but that is why the voters in the February caucuses tossed her in the recycle bin. Her hard-line stance on the Islamic Republic of Iran was the absolute last straw for the Liberal / Left Wing of the party. That vote probably spelled the end for her. It was the one vote that separated Barack Obama from her on foreign policy. He ducked the vote and then seeing the prevailing winds came out against Kyl-Lieberman. It was just enough to please the anti-war Left without hurting his mentor in the Senate. He got to keep Joe Lieberman as an ally in the Senate and keep the Left in his back pocket. Hillary on the other hand got flame-sprayed for her vote.

Hillary miscalculated the depth and breath of the anti-war sentiment in the country in general and the Democratic Party in particular. The progressive coalition was pushing back hard against any kind of military action in Iran. The anti-war crowd saw the case against Iran as a repeat of the Bush case for the Iraq intervention. The progressives saw Iran as yet another example of Bush / Cheney imperial overstretch; a blood for oil disaster in the making. By lining herself up with Lieberman, by accepting the Bush argument of the Iranian threat, by essentially handing him yet another blank check, Hillary repeated the “error” of her Iraq war vote. There was a profound inability to read the domestic political zeitgeist on National Security issues. The general public is exhausted by the Iraq war. They have absolutely no stomach for any type of further military actions in the Middle East. Her late comments threatening the Iranians with obliteration if they use nuclear weapons on Israel where confirmation to the Left that Hillary was a dangerous, over-the-top hawk. Instead of looking tough, Hillary ended up looking shrill.

By the time Hillary attempted to correct her course on Iraq it was far too late. She finally admitted that she wanted that vote on the use of force back. She finally came out and said she would withdraw. By that time it was all over except the crying. Opposition to Hillary on her foreign policy agenda had crystallized to a diamond hard quality. Obama easily sailed through the last anti-war primary in Oregon because of the “the speech.” Hillary’s by now terminally cash-stapped campaign was not able to run the T.V. ads to counter the prevailing pro-Obama mood in Oregon. Even if she was flush with cash, the T.V. ads she could have purchased would have been so much money down the drain. As Barack Obama found out in Pennsylvania, T.V. ads are useless when voters have already made up their minds about your candidacy. The writing on the Oregon wall was there for all to see “Hillary, you have been weighed on Iraq vote and have been found wanting.”

The Hillary Clinton campaign never came to grips with the anti-war sentiment; their abject failure to have a ground game in the February caucuses proves that. They put all their chips in the Super Tuesday primaries; but even there they failed to recognize the anti-war appeal of the Obama message.

The anti-war speech given by Obama and the mileage given it by a credulous public was a profound distortion of reality. That speech was the simplest thing in the world for Obama to give. There was no downside for him in his district; the speech was almost required for Obama to stay in the good graces of his voters. It stood him good stead though in an anti-war, pro change election. It was more than enough to seal the deal with the anti-war, ABC crowd. In a very narrowly decided vote, it was what gave him the margin of victory in the delegate count. Simple put, in looking toward the middle and the general election, in paying too much attention to the right, Hillary got side-swiped from the left.

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