So it’s over.
It’s finally over.
Barack Obama has claimed the position of presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, and Hillary Clinton has now confirmed she’ll concede, belatedly, on Saturday.
Those of you who read some of my thoughts from back during my blog “vacation” (January-March) will know that I’ve been absolutely sure of this outcome for months. Hard as it is for Hillary fans to hear, this outcome has been a virtual certainty since before the Texas/Ohio primaries, and all-but-assured in the immediate aftermath of that March 4th vote.
How can I say this? Just remember: In order to re-take the lead, she needed to win both of those states by 58 percent or better. She didn’t. So, by the time Pennsylvania rolled around, she need 65 percent, just to retake the lead. She didn’t do that either. By the time Indiana/North Carolina rolled around, that number was well into the 70s, and you know how that turned out. And just before voting concluded last week, it was approaching 90 percent.
The only math that ultimately mattered, delegate math, had been very much against her for months. (Thank you, Chuck Todd) Those who were paying attention to the facts of it knew this. Those who were only paying attention to the spin thought there was still a chance.
Instead of writing a ton of my own thoughts, I’d thought I’d share some of the best of things I’ve been reading around the Netroots world.
Actually, almost all these quotes come from HuffPo posts over the past few weeks.
First, a little context….
It Was REALLY Over Last Saturday (But Maybe Not How You Think…)
That was the day of the DNC Rules Committee meeting about Michigan and Florida. And you might think I am referring to the delegate allocation, suggesting that Barack Obama “won” an unfair delegate allocation. In fact, that’s not the case. Actually, Obama didn’t get his own “hard line” position on delegates. What was approved, in the case of both states, were the proposals the state parties put forward.
In other words, the message sent by the DNC was “yes, we’re still punishing you guys, but we’re also trying to signal to you that you matter more than the plans put forth by either campaign.”
In a strange way, that’s a win for Obama because it signaled to all of usthat the DNC was not in the pocket of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
There is evidence of this…
Donna Brazile, no mincer of words that day, has revealed that Obama had the votes to force a 50-50 split of delegates in Michigan. To review: Clinton wanted 74 delegates for her…the Michigan state party wanted a 69-59 split between both candidates…Obama’s “hard line” position was that there should be a 50-50 split.
Brazile reveals that Obama had the votes to enforce his “hard line” position, if he had wanted to. It would not have passed by as wide a margin as the plan that was ultimately approved, it would have really ticked off the State Party (and also Clinton and her supporters). But he could have done it.
And yet, he didn’t.
I just point this out as yet another example of his graciousness and political savvy. He clearly saw it was better to signal unity to the party and peace with Clinton.
But on that day, it wasn’t about who got how many delegates. It was about who didn’t get their way (Clinton), who had the power to get their way (Obama) and who he ultimately listened to (the States).
So, What Happened to Hillary?
Let’s remember what an incredible lead she had going into this thing. She had 20-30 point leads in the polls last winter. She had the Clinton name, arguably the most powerful name in Democratic politics since Roosevelt. She and Bill had been the de facto leaders of the Democratic Party for sixteen years. (With all respect to All Gore and John Kerry…)
In short, she had everything going for her. But, she didn’t count on Obama and his own charisma and strategy, and she often underestimated her own weaknesses.
The best quick-and-dirty assessment I’ve seen of all of this was on the Today Show this week:
They conclude it was:
1) Strategy: It was NOT over on February 5th. She got stunned by his fundraising and 50-state strategy.
2) They got the Message Wrong: It WAS about change
3) They Underestimated “Clinton Fatigue”: They REALLY, underestimated it.
4) Bill and Hillary’s Own “Gaffes”: Bosnia, Jesse Jackson, “hard working white voters”
5) Staying at the Party Too Long: It’s been over since February, and many folks knew it.
I can’t sum it up better than that.
Was it Sexism?
Erica Jong sure seems to think so. In an essay filled with over-the-top rhetoric (“It feels like Joan of Arc burning at the stake. You can smell the burning flesh”) she declares that this campaign proves sexism is not dead:
“It’s not sexism — it’s her” seems to have replaced, “I’m not a feminist, but” in our national lexicon. This is not to imply that Hillary Clinton is faultless — far from it. But it’s clear that the faults we tolerate and even overlook in men, we see as glaring in women. The problem with sexism is that it’s so damned invisible.”
But what if it really IS that folks were saying “it’s her, not that she’s a woman?”
That’s what Peggy Drexler, also a staunch feminists (why must feminists always be “staunch?”) says in an essay called “Don’t Vote Chromosomes: The First Woman Must be the Right Woman.”
As more and more “women of a certain age” told her Clinton needed to stay in the race because she was the last chance for a woman president in their lifetime, Wexler started saying, “Whaah?”
“Don’t get me wrong. After a combined 16 years of intern abuse, lying to Congress, bullying, and macho posturing, I would love to see a woman’s imprint on the Oval Office. But not to score one for our side. That makes as much sense as choosing Pepsi over Coke because Pepsi is run by a female.”
Wexler points out that women’s leadership styles run the gamut, and often exhibit “a more even-handed willingness to form consensus and consider opinions counter to our own.”
But, when it comes to Hillary Clinton, she just didn’t see it:
“Leadership style? I see in Hillary the same calculating, “bring em on” swagger of the last eight years: Dick Cheney – only better accessorized.
With Hillary we’re talking about a woman who added assassination to possibilities of the early summer political season; who threatened to “obliterate” Iran; who declared herself the candidate of “hard working Americans – white Americans.”
As for her concern for women’s issues, Hillary has made promises on choice, reproductive services, expanded women’s health care and pay parity. Where in her Senate career do we see any serious tenure-defining effort to protect or achieve any of that?
In fact, Hillary is not nearly as progressive as some might hope. She supported the Defense of Marriage Act, she co-sponsored a flag burning amendment, she voted to send our sons and daughters into the meat grinder of an unnecessary war. And with close to 70 percent of women in most polls favoring stricter gun control laws, what are we to make of her snuggling up to the NRA with tales of her childhood shooting lessons?”
See, there is a point we can’t miss here. Maybe for many voters it really *was* about her being…her…a human being named Clinton, and not about her being a woman.
BTW, buried in this essay is a little nugget I dearly love:
“And I also like the idea of voting for a woman who truly cares about women’s’ issues. Without that, I’m not sure why women should get all that excited. In fact, a Yale study looked at voting records and found that legislators most likely to favor women’s issues are men – with daughters.”
So, what if it had to do, for many people, with “Clinton fatigue?”
What if many of us found it hard to imagine 28-years of presidential rule by two American families?
(it’s kind of creepy when you put it like that, isn’t it?)
What if many of us feel we used up all the water in our “defend the Clinton’s” aquifer back in the 1990s?
I think, far more than sexism, these were the major factors.
And this points me to…
What Obama’s Victory Means
See, the other side of Hillary’s loss is Obama’s win. Obama defeated the biggest name is Democratic politics for the last 50 years.
Late in the campaign, people kept asking “Why can’t he win these big states?!!”
The question I always hoped they’d ask is, “Why, with her name, did so many of these races go from 20-30 point leads, to wins by ten points or less?
The answer is, I believe, because many people really like what they see in Barack Obama.
They wanted “change.” But they also wanted idealism.
Gary Hart sees this nomination as a victory of “idealism” over “pragmatism”:
“Though most people who start out as young idealists become more pragmatic with the weight of years, some of us do not. Some of us cling to the hope that America can do better, that public service can be noble, that equality and justice are achievable. We don’t want to settle for past policy frameworks or for half measures. We would prefer to set a higher standard and to challenge the political and social systems to struggle upward. These feelings are not voluntary. They are part of one’s very character.
I hope to live to see the first woman president. But I also hope she will be an idealist, not only a gender pioneer but a bold, brave, and innovative leader who is not part of a flawed Washington system. I want America to send a powerful signal to a watching world that we have now taken a giant step into the global culture by electing an African-American. But my hope and dream also is, and has been since the days of John and Robert Kennedy, that this president will call us to a nobler mission and a higher goal, that he will remind us always of our Constitutional principles and ideals, that he will place us back on our historic path to the establishment of a more perfect union and a principled republic.”
As an observation, I also believe this is what leads some to oppose Obama. Because they have seen the ruin that has come to some of our idealists in the past century, and they either don’t want that for Obama. Or they don’t want to pain of losing an idealist again, should something happen to him or his candidacy.
But, in the end, I think Hart is right: a part of Obama’s win is a victory of idealism over pragmatism. A politician must always have both as a part of their character. The question, it seems to me, is which one a politician “leads” with. Voters, for now, seem to want a politician who leads with idealism.
But beyond this, but perhaps related to it, there are generational differences at play here. It’s been sixteen years since the young, vibrant couple known as “Bill and Hillary” rocketed to the scene. That’s several lifetimes, politically, and they are not so young any more. In fact, more time has now elapsed between 1992 and now, than between their ascendancy that year and the beginning of the “Reagan Revolution!”
So, one of the other key concepts at play here is generational change.
And for this, I point you to this last essay by John Zogby, titled “The End of Boomerism as We Know It.”
“The Clintons are prototypical Baby Boomers — committed to ideals of peace and justice but overwhelmed with themselves. They (we, because I was born in 1948) are consumed with being the center of attention, the bride and groom at every wedding, so much so, that the ends don’t simply justify the means, they are one and the same. Getting elected is the game, the final goal, the definition of self-worth. In his recent book, former White House spokesman Scott McClellan decried the mentality of “the permanent campaign” that he said permeated the White House of George W. Bush (the other Boomer president), which in some respects mirrors the Clinton behavior.
Sad to say, Bill Clinton became best known for the hallmarks of Boomerism — self-centeredness and permanent adolescence — as exhibited by the Lewinsky affair and all the other, lesser controversies and scandals.”
He goes on to argue that those who believed George Bush was the antidote to this failed to realize that he was also a Boomer with similar flaws.
“After 16 years, Americans have finally declared, state by state, caucus by caucus, primary by primary, that they have had enough of the Boomer generation in the White House.
In the final analysis, Hillary Clinton is smart, charming — and the wrong person for the times. Voters have moved beyond Boomerism. Now, Americans will choose between an older version of duty, honor, glory, and a return to the American Century vs. a new vision of global pluralism, diversity, change, and youthful vigor.
Is Boomer Power gone forever? It is impossible right now to say one way or the other, but one thing we do know is that it has, at least, suffered a serious setback.”
I think this is probably right.
I am a Baby Boomer by about three years. (Depending upon when you officially end the boom…) Barack Obama is a year older than me.
Those of us on the tail end of the “boom” have always felt an unease around our older Boomer brothers and sisters. On the one hand, there is much to be admired in them. On the other, their self-absorbed nature has always bothered us.
The Clintons are the classic examples of this older generation of Boomers. The Obamas are the epitome of the younger Boomers.
While older Boomers could look back and straddle the divide between them and the “Greatest Generation” (read: McCain) we younger Boomers have always been as equally comfortable around “Busters” (I married one) and even “Millenials.” (The young adult children of many of those older Boomers!)
Ironically, I believe the Clintons and their political generation, young and vibrant as they were in 1992, failed to realize just how much generational change is at work in this election. To quote The Who, the “new boss” has become “same as the old boss.” And that “same old boss” is now the Clintons.
For younger voters, and even for people like me, Barack and Michelle Obama remind us more of the Bill and Hillary Clinton of 1992 than do the the Bill and Hillary of 2008!
The times? They are always a-changin’
And, whatever happens this November, it’s clear this election is now about change.
Should be fun.