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Not Morons

[ 0 ] June 2, 2008 |

In response to Dan, channeling James Fallows:

The Clinton team doesn’t worry about hurting Obama’s prospects of winning in the fall, because they assess those prospects at zero. Always have. Obama might not win if he leads a bitterly divided party, but (in this view) he was never going to win. Not a chance. He would be smashed like an armadillo in the road by the Republican campaign machine, and he would be just about as ready as the armadillo for what was coming.

Others have made similar assessments of the Clinton mindset.

Here’s my question: how objectively stupid does someone have to be to come to this conclusion? Forgetting about the candidates for a second, the current political and economic environment suggests a clear Democrat victory this November.

They’re not stupid; they’re just blinkered. Bill and Hillary have taken note of the fact that the only victor in a Democratic presidential race since 1980 has been a Clinton, and moreover than the 1976 race (coming on the heels of Watergate) was an aberration. In 2000, Gore ran a Clinton-esque campaign, but couldn’t win because he’s not, well, a Clinton. The Clintons are convinced that only they, running with the coalition they assembled, and with the strategy that they mastered in 1992, can win a Presidential election as Democrats. Moreover, this is not an insane position to hold; it has some empirical support, and it fits into a larger media narrative about the history of American politics since 1968. The Clintons, one might say, are proud citizens of Nixonland; they believe that the Democratic Party can only win in modern America when it’s on the defensive.

Like Dan, I think that they’re wrong, but that doesn’t mean they’re either stupid or insane. Hell, they might even be right; Barack Obama might lose to McCain in spite of the enormous advantages that the Democrats currently enjoy. Of course, one of the things that made Barack Obama attractive to me was the chance to escape this blinkered and limited view of the role that the Democratic Party could play on the American political scene; I don’t doubt that Hillary would have made a fine President, but she would operated with a much narrower understanding of the possible than Obama.

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