Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hillary Now

The conventional wisdom, promoted by all the leading pundits, is that, for Democrats to win in national elections, they have to be, or seem to be, tough on “jihadist” terrorism, pro-military, and (lately) against the Iraq War. Since the first two positions seem to go together – in the minds of neoconservatives and their Clintonite counterparts –and since the third is not outright incompatible with the other two, this is a possible, though implausible, configuration. For the time being, of all the top tier candidates, Hillary Clinton has figured out best how to shine in the conventional wisdom’s light. Given her earlier bellicosity when Bush and Cheney went to war against Iraq, and her refusal to repent of aiding and abetting them, she is an unlikely anti-war candidate. And given her still lingering reputation as the “liberal” of the Clinton family, she is an unlikely tough guy too, especially in a world where women are still considered “soft.” Thus the new Hillary image is a remarkable achievement. She and her handlers deserve credit; they’re good.

Since we know from the recent past that many, too many, Democratic voters are too clever by half, there is reason to fear a resurgence of the old theme of Clinton inevitability as voters make the conventional wisdom their own, and set about strategizing again. Obama, they might conclude, is too “unseasoned” to win in a general election (and, if that isn’t enough, is America ready for a black President, especially one who, for all his star quality, still lacks gravitas?); Edwards is too “populist” (and, if that isn’t enough, remember his haircut and the size of the house he sold!). Before Obama exploded onto the scene, the conventional wisdom was that HRC had a lock on the nomination, but that her only hope of winning a general election was for the Republicans to self-destruct. The Republicans have, so far, been most obliging. At the same time, the pundits agree, Hillary has become more Presidential. Thus, we are told that accepting her inevitability is not acceding to a death wish after all. It now looks like she could be a strong candidate in a general election – especially against the creep (Giuliani) or lightweight (Romney) or lightweight creep (Thompson) that the Republicans are likely to field.

But hold on. When Democratic voters strategize, take cover. That’s how John Kerry got the nomination in 2004. It’s also why the Democrats lost -- that, and a few dirty tricks (that weren’t dirty enough to trouble the pundits). Of course, that was then. Maybe now, thanks to four more years of Cheney and Bush, we could have a Clintonite Restoration, notwithstanding the animosity Hillary conjures up (mostly for the wrong reasons). I doubt it, though. So far Giuliani is the only Republican who has seen fit to take aim directly at HRC or indeed any Democratic candidate. When “the vast right wing conspiracy” gets going again, the situation could change profoundly. Then we could be faced with the ultimate nightmare – a Giuliani or Thompson or, Angel Gabriel defend us, Romney Presidency.

This is one of those instances where the best strategy is not to strategize, but instead to choose the best (or, since we’re talking about Democrats, least bad) feasible candidate. That would be Edwards, most likely, if we’re confined to the “top tier,” though it could be Obama; this despite the fact that Gravel and Kucinich win hands down on “the issues.” If the Democrats want a sure winner in 2008, they’d do best by doing good. That means dispatching Hillary ASAP, and putting an end to a dynastic contest that has gone on too long, and with too devastating effects. This would be a first step – an indispensable, though insufficient one – for vanquishing Clintonism altogether; in other words, for truly doing good.

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