Rebecca Traister has a terrific piece about counterfactuals and the 2008 primary. Amanda has some comments as well. Traister does a good job of outlining the where there may have differences — Obama’s coatails (which were likely decisive in the Hagan and Franken Senate races) versus the unlikelihood that Clinton would have played the debt ceiling hand as badly, for example. But the revisionism that has turned someone with an extensive history of centrist deal-cutting into the second coming of Eugene Debs notwithstanding, the differences would be marginal. (And there’s no doubt that had Obama lost the primary, his supporters would be imagining a left-wing Obama presidency that was never going to happen too.)
Particularly after Obama named Clinton his Secretary of State and adopted Clinton’s signature domestic issue in essentially the form that she advocated it — narrowing the nickel’s worth of difference between them to a penny — in policy terms the 2008 Democratic primary was about almost nothing. For reasons Traister’s excellent book explains, the primary was one of major political and cultural significance — and I don’t want to use the word “symbolic,” which trivializes the very real importance of a primary battle between strong candidates from historically underrepresented and marginalized groups — but not policy significance.
Nice job by Kevin K. taking on the argument recently being advanced by people who either need some excuse to discuss John Edwards’s sex life or to excuse their dismal performance running Hillary Clinton’s campaign that Edwards’s foolish decision to stay in the race somehow cost Clinton the election. I think we had the discussion at the time, and the argument from people who thought that Edwards’s presence helped Obama was to claim that Edwards and Clinton were competing for the same working-class white voters. And the problem with this was and remains that while Edwards’s campaign certainly tried to appeal to these voters, it wasn’t actually attracting them in very significant numbers. Rather, Edwards was attracting more of the “wine-track” voters who could be expected to go to Obama. (I did enjoy Malcolm’s imagining of a significant “anti-Obama” vote in the Iowa caucuses.)
Obviously, counterfactuals are difficult, and particularly given the weirdness inherent in the Iowa caucus system we can’t know for certain how Edwards coming to his senses and dropping out would have affected the outcome. But it is overwhelmingly likely that, far from handing the nomination to Obama, his decision was the only thing stopping from Obama pretty much wrapping up the whole thing in New Hampshire.
…see also. None of which changes the fact that Edwards dropping out somehow would have made Mark Penn competent, I’m sure.
Some explanation for my off the cuff remark about energy policy. Here’s why I’m not sold on focusing on energy policy as a centerpiece of the electoral strategy. I think it’ll penetrate the minds of voters in roughly this manner:
McCain/Republican message: renewables, efficiency, multiple sources, green collar jobs, blah blah blah, and DRILL NOW
The drill now position seems to play reasonably well. When the Granholm-lead “roundtable” started getting into detail about the awesomeness of Obama’s plan, my eyes started to glaze over and I’m actually interested in energy policy. McCain has been very good at mimicking the details of the Obama message, and I think hope of achieving any meaningful differentiation (aside from the drill now element) is probably misplaced.
It seems to me the best way to neutralize the advantage added by the “drill now” component is to focus on the attack portion of energy policy discussions: attack McCain for policies that enrich oil companies at our expense. This is believable, but I think it’s better done in the context of attacking McCain on his general propensity to support policies that enrich the already very rich. (I’d really love to see this and this getting more play). Energy policy isn’t the capacity to give this particular line of attack it’s larger context.
Also, just in general, it seems wiser to me to try and shift public attention to the many issues in which Obama and Democrats have a natural advantage, rather than try to neutralize the one issue that currently helps McCain, unless you have evidence (which, I suppose, they might, but I’m not aware of it) that this issue is likely to be decisive for a large number of voters.
The roommate just commandeered the remote and switched the TV off the convention and onto Rachel Ray. I’m not sure it’s not an improvement. The only way I can watch the Democratic Conventions without freaking out is to repeat over and over again that I’m not the target audience for this and someone somewhere surely knows what they’re doing. I guess this “ordinary people as political props” thing must actually work, but I find it really annoying myself.
One thought: everyone’s talking way too much about energy policy. It’s too defensive. Instead, hammer away at pocketbook issues here you have an edge.
I sure hope Clinton can successfully do the 17 different mutually contradictory things the CNN buffoons keep saying she absolutely has to do.
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.
As for Reagan Democrats, how Clinton was treated is not their issue. They are more concerned with how they have been treated. Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama’s historic campaign, people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment: If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama’s playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They’re not upset with Obama because he’s black; they’re upset because they don’t expect to be treated fairly because they’re white. It’s not racism that is driving them, it’s racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don’t believe he understands them and their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory “Our Time Has Come” they believe he is telling them that their time has passed.
Jon Chait makes the first obvious point about Rich Lowry’s silly attempt to claim that there’s some contradiction between Democratic arguments that ballots that indicated the intent of the voter should be counted in Florida 2000 and the position of many Democrats about current dispute over the Democratic nomination: the argument was that Gore was cheated of the presidency because in a fair contest in Florida he would have won the electoral college. Similarly, had 200,000 votes shifted in Ohio in 2004 Kerry would have been entitled to the presidency despite losing the popular vote. These results would (in my view) be good reasons to get rid of the electoral college, but not for changing the rules after the fact. Lowry tries to manufacture a contradiction by attributing Clinton’s attempted ex post facto change in metrics to the Dems in 2000, but that won’t fly.
In addition, however, the analogy is also null because (especially in Michigan) the Clinton campaign wants to count the results of a “primary” that obviously does not offer a meaningful recording of voter intent. To believe that the ballots cast in a multi-candidate election conducted according to agreed-upon rules should be interpreted when possible to count votes that make a voter’s intent clear hardly requires the counting of ballots in an election with one major candidate on the ballot that every candidate and the authoritative decision-maker claimed wouldn’t count. Elections in North Korea don’t suddenly become legitimate even if every ballot for Kim Jong-il is, in fact, counted, and people who wanted to “count all the votes” in Florida in 2000 are not required to include online straw polls in presidential election counts in 2008. And, therefore, Lowry’s argument makes no sense.
Here’s his deal: in Michigan, give Clinton the 73 pledged delegates she would have won if the primary were legal. Then, of the 55 delegates that are pledged to “uncommitted,” “divide the remaining delegates approximately 50-50 between the two of them, 28-27 (giving Clinton the extra delegate since she led in all the latest statewide polls.)”
So she gets the delegates represented by everyone who voted for her when she was the only major candidate on the ballot, and then more than 50% of all the people who voted for anyone but her!
Brezhnev should have thought of this.
OK, but admittedly, any defense of giving Clinton a supermajority of delegates from the Michigan non-primary is going to involve ridiculous arguments, so this is just run-of-the-mill hackery. What makes Davis special is his follow-up post, in which (having done what he can to undermine the legitimacy of the Democratic nominee) he enumerates some allegedly unecessarily inflammatory actions from the Obama campaign. #1 on his list: Obama announcing endorsements in a way designed to…make them politically advantageous! Heavens to betsy, get me the smelling salts!
With due respect to the residents of our not-quite-a-51st-state, Barack Obama shouldn’t be spending either a nickel or a minute on the Puerto Rican primary. Illinois, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida have the largest Puerto Rican populations in the United States, and Obama is going to crush in the first five and in all likelihood get crushed in the last. Puerto Rico, unlike most of the states that the Clinton campaign has determined are meaningless, actually is meaningless for any purpose other than Clinton’s quixotic pursuit of the nomination.
To play against recent type somewhat, and since they seem to have been the final straw for a lot of people, I should probably say that I don’t actually think that the RFK comments are a big deal at all. The example was poorly chosen, but I think the point she was trying to make is obvious enough: primaries going to June isn’t an especially big deal. Granted, while I’m sympathetic to the point the example on the merits is stupid and illogical; you can’t compare primaries in 2008 to years in which they started much later on a more spread-out schedule, and in the case of force majeure I’m confident that Clinton has already won enough delegates to prevent Dodd or Kucinich from taking the nomination if she drops out tomorrow.
But illogic pretty much comes with the territory when you’re coming up with rationales for a campaign that has no reasonable chance of succeeding. I find her comparisons of trying ex post facto to count votes no rational individual could think even approach a minimally acceptable measure of voter intent to abolitionism and the fight to enfranchise African-Americans under apartheid infinitely more objectionable.
Evidently, Clinton using the civil rights and suffragist movement to defend her attempts to count the North Korean Michigan not-even-a-straw-poll is beyond appalling. But nonetheless, I can’t agree with Isaac Chotiner here:
I suppose I see the utility of this strategy on Obama’s part, but there is something unseemly about the Illinois Senator going out of his way to praise Senator Clinton at a time when her entire posture in the campaign is so aggressively negative and pathetic. And now that Clinton has decided that there is no distinction between her quest and the quest of women everywhere, it would be best if Obama resisted the temptation to hold her up as a feminist icon.
However indefensible some of the Clinton campaign’s rhetoric has been, Obama is definitely doing the right thing here. Clinton’s campaign has been historic, and has therefore inspired deep commitment from her supporters. Clinton’s recent tactics are odious but it’s not as if they stand any chance of working or anything; as Chait says, “Democratic superdelegates don’t want to commit suicide.” We political observers should feel free to make fun of hack arguments, but for the candidate to make peace with Clinton’s supporters is appropriate. It’s the winner’s strategy. I personally think it would be better for the party and her reputation if Clinton weren’t going down by saying this kind of thing, but that’s politics; it’s her judgment how to run her campaign. There’s no need for Obama to take the bait — upping the ante would just make things worse.
Check out especially the interview with a coal miner about 2:15 in:
The white people has put the negroes in the back of the bus for years, and if we’re not careful we’re gonna be in the back of the bus and they’re gonna be in the front.
That’s interesting, and suggests an answer to why whites in Appalachia are so much more resistant to voting for Obama than anywhere else; it’s driven by economic insecurity, and by what amounts to perceived competition between two economic underclasses. That’s really not such a shocking interpretation, but it is one, I think, that you’re less likely to see from an American news source than from Al-Jazeera.