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Tag: "2008 democratic primary"

Phony Costs, Phony Benefits

[ 12 ] May 8, 2008 |

On the question of whether Clinton should drop out, my position continues to be one of indifference. It’s her decision, and I doubt that it matters much either way. I suppose I would prefer that she not attack Obama using GOP talking points now that the nomination has been effectively decided, but even there as Dilan says the effects of this kind of thing are greatly overstated. (Barring a major change in fundamentals, if the election is close enough something so minor could turn the election, I’ve seriously overestimated Obama as a candidate.) I also object to assumptions that Clinton is trying to tear the party apart or sabotage Obama or whatever. I have no doubt that she will strongly support Obama as soon as she concedes. And I think one has to have some empathy here; it can’t be easy to run a race you reasonably expected to win, assemble a very strong coalition of supporters, and fall just short. I can’t really blame her for not quite wanting to concede the inevitable just yet. If staying in is “selfish,” it is only in the sense that anyone running for that kind of office is going to be.

On the other hand, claims that she’s serving some kind of noble ideal by staying in are no more plausible. I’ve seen in some quarters claims that it would undermine democracy or some such to state that Clinton should leave. The thing is, candidates drop out of races they can no longer win all the time without anyone claiming that it undermines democracy. Democracy means that Clinton can stay in until the convention if she chooses, and it also means that anybody can suggest that her staying in is bad for the party, decide to stop giving money to a lost cause, come out for Obama as a superdelegate, etc. McGovern is no more doing anything undemocratic than Clinton is. (Obviously, the argument becomes farcical when anyone who suggests that advising Clinton to drop out violates democratic values also sees nothing objectionable about counting the results of “primaries” that wouldn’t meet Vladimir Putin’s standards of legitimacy.)

In another common move, Ambinder says that it “may well be that Clinton refuses to officially drop out until she is satisfied that the voices of Florida and Michigan are heard.” The thing is, though, that the voices of Florida in Michigan will not be heard in any meaningful way no matter what happens. A fair contest is not going to be held for their delegates. Michigan Democrats do not suddenly become enfranchised if you declare ex post facto that a one-major-candidate straw poll was an ordinary primary. If “hearing their voices” just means seating them at the convention after it’s clear that they won’t be used to try to reverse the outcome of the nomination, then Clinton staying in the race prevents the issue from being resolved.

In essence, this is a trivial issue. Clinton is neither doing significant damage to the party nor acting as some sort of crusader for democracy by staying in although she’s drawing dead.


Worth Repeating

[ 0 ] May 7, 2008 |

Mike Lux:

  • That the Clinton people need to get used to the fact that Obama is the nominee. All the hyperbolic “he can never win the general” and the “it’s not fair” stuff needs to stop right now unless you want a 100-years-in-Iraq, pro-life, pro-Roberts/Alito Supreme Court, 22% lifetime LCV rating, economic right-winger as President. To spend any time or energy at all nursing your resentments is the most fundamentally selfish thing you can do right now. I hate losing elections, I know how badly you feel, and how hard it is, but there is too much at stake to be selfish right now.
  • That all the avid Obama people who have been so obsessed with beating Hillary pat yourself on the back, and then get the hell over it. You’ve won the first round, get ready for round 2 because just winning the primary doesn’t count for anything in the end. Gloating feels great, but it doesn’t help Obama in any way, so put off gloating until he’s actually won the real election. Keep giving to Obama, but help the DNC and VoteVets and other groups that are working on beating McCain, too. And be a big person, and reach a hand of friendship to all the Hillary people who you have been saying mean things to for a year now. We need them.

I know all of this is obvious, so apologies for that and for the preachy tone, too. But I just had to say it. We have a candidate. Now let’s figure out how he wins.

Obvious, yes, but a reminder never hurts.

Also, proposition; if Barack Obama had continued to refer to himself as “Barry”, he never would have won the nomination, because Americans don’t cotton to damn dirty nerds.

Good News on the Gas Tax Follies

[ 34 ] May 7, 2008 |

As Hilzoy notes, the gas tax pander seems to have failed utterly, perhaps even costing Clinton a substantial number of votes. I take some comfort in the notion that voters aren’t as stupid as Jerome Armstrong would assume…

Still Over

[ 17 ] May 7, 2008 |

As Sam said, tonight conveyed no new information. Clinton had pretty much no chance before tonight, and she still doesn’t. They have the same coalitions they’ve had for most of the race, and Obama’s is somewhat but decisively bigger. Clinton was never going to be able to use the vote totals from North Korea Michigan to go over the top unless you think the superdelegates are mostly complete idiots; after tonight, it’s just that Clinton can’t win even under her campaign’s own silly ad hoc metrics.

What it does seem to change is that the media may give up any pretense that Clinton could win the nomination. And given Clinton’s cancellation of appearances, you have to wonder if she’s finally going to concede the inevitable.

this seems to confirm my speculation about the media.

If I Were a Betting Man…

[ 14 ] May 6, 2008 |

The predictions part of my diavlog was lost, but I think I predicted Clinton +10 in Indiana, Obama +7 in NC. Overs? Unders?

Fighting For What?

[ 0 ] May 5, 2008 |


Clinton is presently making a big deal about the fact that she is “a fighter”. After this primary season, I don’t think there can be any doubt about her willingness to fight. What Clinton’s gas tax proposal tells me is what she’s willing to fight for. She is not willing to fight for what she thinks is right in the face of public pressure. She’s not even willing to restrict her compromises to cases in which public pressure to do something stupid already exists. She will sacrifice principle and the public good when it’s expedient for her to do so.

I guess that has always been one of my two major problems with Clinton’s candidacy. Even if we concede that she’s a “fighter,” whether or not these fighting skills will be consistently used on behalf of progressive values is another question entirely. (There was a better argument to be made about this in terms of electability, but the result of the primary despite her large inherent advantages, her reliance on Mark Penn, etc. speaks for itself. Primaries, in this sense, do provide important information.) Having said that, I would find the gas tax stupidity considerably less objectionable if she had a non-trivial chance of winning the nomination. Given that Obama is nearly certain to actually be the candidate, agreeing with John McCain to not only endorse a bad policy bit reinforce GOP frames about the party’s nominee is pretty odious.

With respect to my other major objection, Hilzoy cites Clinton’s vote authorizing the Iraq War as another example. I’m actually not so sure; I think it’s entirely possible (indeed, I think, more likely) that Clinton thought her vote on the war was right on the merits. In terms of evaluating her as a potential president, though, I think this is worse.

Dumbest. Spin. Ever.

[ 7 ] May 2, 2008 |

Seriously. Maybe Kerry should have tried that logic out in 2004. “Why does the media keep setting up all these hurdles in front of me? I’ve proven that I’ve won! Obviously, the relevant criterion for judging the success of my campaign should be my performance in an arbitrarily selected group of large states, not irrelevant factors like ‘electoral votes’ or even ‘the popular vote.'”


[ 36 ] April 25, 2008 |

Walter Shapiro asks “Whose fault is the Clinton-Obama stalemate?” The article then more or less argues that although Clinton’s campaign has been egregiously incompetent, Obama’s campaign has also had a significant share of “substantial misadventures.” But shouldn’t we consider the possibility that the race has reached a quasi-equilibrium with Obama in a relatively narrow but decisive lead because both of the candidates are really, really impressive? That the core supporters of both aren’t moving because they, I dunno, really like their preferred candidate? Doesn’t this seem considerably more likely?

This is especially true since the examples Shaprio offers are either trivial (anyone want to make a case that the race would be significantly different if Clinton kept the same slogan?) or projection (I certainly think it’s outrageous to push to try to seat delegates based on a straw poll with one major candidate on the ballot, but I’d love to see evidence that this has been a factor for a significant number of actual primary voters.) Even the one really consequential Clinton blunder that Shapiro identifies — allowing Obama to run the table in the February caucuses with nearly token opposition — was the outgrowth of a strategy that was reasonable (invest resources to end it on Super Tuesday) that just didn’t work out.

I know we’re trained to be cynical, but at some point you have to consider the possibility that the race has gone on because the Democrats have two broadly ideologically similar candidates with, in different ways, formidable political skills. All campaigns make mistakes, but that’s the key dynamic here; the race wouldn’t be close for so long if both candidates didn’t have a lot of strongly committed supporters.

Popular Vote Nonsense…

[ 0 ] April 24, 2008 |

Jerome Armstrong:

But, rather than be content with calling out a math error, Markos has to up the ante audacious to demand we “count the count the Michigan “uncommitted” votes for Obama”. Ah, well, John Edwards was still in the race at the time and was surely in the same boat, having also pulled his name off the ballot in Michigan. At least Markos isn’t calling for Texans that caucused to have their votes counted twice, or that Puerto Rico votes won’t count… yet.

No one but Obama is to blame for his having no votes in Michigan. His campaign came up with the gambit to take his name off the ballot in MI to score cheap points in IA, and his campaign took the lead in convincing Edwards and Richardson to follow along and remove their names from the MI ballot to try and force Clinton to follow suit (my sources are from top people in the Edwards campaign). it didn’t work, Clinton took the hit of the political stunt and kept her name on the ballot in Michigan.

Here’s the thing; however you construct the “popular vote” it certainly has no binding legal force. To the extent it matters at all, it’s a moral argument; the superdelegates, the theory goes, should vote for the candidate who receives the most votes, as the distribution of pledged delegates has anti-democratic elements. Scott has critiqued this argument (pointing out that the structure of the competition affects strategy, and thus that if the candidates had known that the artificial construction called the “popular vote” would be important, they would have campaigned differently) but, frankly, the superdelegates can use whatever measure they want to decide between the candidates. For the reasons Scott suggests, and because there are several different popular vote counts, I think that assessing the race on popular vote is pretty stupid, but whatever.

The point, though is that in making what is essentially a moral rather than a procedural argument, you can’t invoke a procedural decision in order to exclude some substantial number of votes. Note that this isn’t such a problem with the pledged delegate total; the pledged delegate number is procedurally meaningful, and as such the various procedural rules and decisions associated with its tabulation matter. But Jerome here is, essentially, making the moral argument that Clinton should get the nod because she’s more popular, which requires pretending that no one in Detroit, for crying out loud, would prefer Obama to Clinton.

For my own part I continue to think that both the Florida and Michigan contests were shams, and should be treated as such. I don’t really want to revisit that argument, but it’s tangential to this point in any case; when making a moral argument, it’s absurd to resort to procedural shuffling in order to make your case. Another way of putting this is that I can see why people who work for Hillary Clinton would make this case, but just because they’re going to make the case doesn’t mean we have to believe it (note that I’m not claiming Jerome is on the Clinton payroll; I think he’s a bad analyst, but that’s not the same as being bought and paid for).

…Via jdkbrown, fantastic analysis here.

Penn Primary

[ 16 ] April 23, 2008 |

I don’t have much to add, and watched about as much coverage as Ezra, because the result is clear: Obama remains a near-lock, and Clinton’s not going to drop out after a 10-point win. I would like to second what should be an obvious point from Isaac Chotiner: claims that Obama “has to” start winning or seriously cutting into Clinton’s core constituencies in upcoming states are silly. He already has a majority coalition for the primary, and as far as the general election poor people and older women aren’t going to suddenly turn into a Republican constituency.

Ace in the Hole

[ 10 ] April 23, 2008 |


Ang Lee speaks out against proposed Tory legislation that would deny the usual Canadian tax credits to “films and videos deemed offensive to the public.” (In fairness, if it would have stopped Lost and Delirious from being made it would prove that even social conservatism has its upside.) More important tonight, however, is that he can serve as a good luck charm, as he shows good judgments about both Western Canadian cities and hockey teams:

Lee captivated his audience with his friendly, unassuming demeanour.

His next movie, he disclosed, is “a comedy about the sixties,” but he would also love to make a film one day in Vancouver.

“I think this is the most beautiful city in the world …. I hope it’s a hockey movie. I want to make a movie where Canadians win, not always Americans,” said Lee, who became a fan of the Calgary Flames during the filming of Brokeback Mountain.

Hopefully Game 7 will be a little more suspenseful than tonight’s primary. (For some reason, I’m guessing some LG&M readers care more about the latter, so this can serve as a Primary Open Thread.)

…ugh, this fiasco has been much more The Hulk than The Ice Storm…

This Thing Isn’t Over Yet?

[ 13 ] April 22, 2008 |

I guess my prediction today will be…Clinton by 13.

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