Why Clinton's Not (Necessarily) Crazy

This started as a comment at Pandagon in response to Pam's "Has the Clinton team gone stark raving mad?" post, but it kinda took on a life of its own, so here you go.

Before cataloguing a bunch of recent WTFs from the Clinton campaign, Pam says:
For the life of me I just don’t understand the thinking inside the Clinton campaign (and inside the heads of surrogates). Strong supporters of Clinton — please clue me in; I don’t know how the following developments make any sense in terms of political strategy that’s helpful to the candidate
All right, I'll give it a whirl.

First, I think what Ferraro said is utter horseshit (and both Jeff's post and Pam's sum up why), so all I can say about that in terms of defending Clintonian strategy -- which is all I'll attempt to do here -- is that I don't think Ferraro qualifies as a Clinton surrogate so much as a Clinton supporter in the public eye who went out and said a dumbassed thing, all on her own. I could be wrong, but I don't think we can pin her asshattery on the campaign itself.

As for offering Obama the VP slot when she's behind, I completely agree with this comment from Chester:
I think it is a cynical ploy to swing undecided voters or voters who like them both equally into voting for her by suggesting — with absolutely no obligation — that they can vote for her guilt-free and she might bring him on board as veep.
Doing that after accusing Obama of not being ready to be president is dumb, but not necessarily dumb enough to make it a bad strategy. (I think Wolfson's comments about it were particularly redonk, but then, I think a lot of what Wolfson says is. See point 1 below for why that doesn't matter.) If you accept that it's a cynical ploy to swing people who would really like to vote for BOTH Clinton and Obama (and hell, I'm one of them, even though I realize it's not bloody likely at this point), then the people it's aimed at are going to focus on that, not on the inconsistencies. And you know, it's perfectly fine to find cynical ploys distasteful, but it's not like they're historically ineffective in politics.

In general, I think there are two things many in the liberal blogosphere are losing sight of with regard to Clinton.

1) The average voter is nowhere near as politically engaged as we are, and is not following every single volley between the campaigns, keeping track of all the idiotic and offensive remarks from both sides, etc. The average voter probably has no clue what the delegate counts are right now, and many have no clue how the delegate system even works. They don't know who Howard Wolfson or Mark Penn are, or what asshole things they've said recently. They aren't working out the mathematical probabilities or worrying about the collapse of the party if the fight goes on until the convention. What they know is that Clinton and Obama are still duking it out, and one of them will be the nominee. Period. And for my money, Clinton is appealing to THAT voter right now, not to those of us who really pay attention to the campaigns.

2) There are a hell of a lot of Dems who aren't especially progressive -- let alone the moderate Republicans and independents. All of those people can vote. (And it's worth noting, these are the kind of people who most likely believe -- because it's certainly what the MSM has told us all -- that McCain's basically a moderate and a hell of a guy. They're not going to be offended by her flattering a candidate they might be seriously considering.) Furthermore, the progressive wing of the party, as represented by the prog blogs, is clearly favoring Obama by such a wide margin there would be no point whatsoever in her playing to us.

As commenter Blue Jean said at Pandagon,
Excuse moi, but I believe she’s only a hundred or so delegates behind right now. Y’all might not like it, but she represents half the Dem party, the half that could stay home or vote for McCain, since McOld doesn’t seem bent on telling them to “fuck off and die” like the other half.
Almost immediately, someone jumped on this being a "threat" by Clinton supporters. It's not; it's reality. I'm a Clinton supporter, and there's no way in HELL I would vote for McCain -- nor would I, based on my personal beliefs, stay home. If Obama takes the nomination, I'll be voting for him. But I do not represent every Democrat or every Clinton supporter. People vote all different ways for all different reasons. And like I said, to the average moderate voter, McCain doesn't look so bad, given the media's hard-on for him and the residue of the 2000 narrative that painted him as a moderate. That fact turns my fucking stomach, but it's still a fact.

Obviously, no real progressive or yellow dog Dem would vote for McCain in the general (though some will stay home either way) -- but progressives and yellow dogs are not the only people voting. And Democrats are not the only ones who might vote for a Democrat in this election. And those of us who spend way too much fucking time reading (and writing) liberal blogs are not the only constituency the candidates should or do take an interest in.

So frankly, at this point, if she says things that piss off progressives, it doesn't lose her any votes -- but it could gain her votes among all the other Dems, moderates, and independents who are out there for the taking. The way she's playing it right now might be offensive and alienating to many -- but since the alienated parties are generally people who have made it clear they're not supporting her anyway, there's no big loss there.

Bottom line, the Clintons know a thing or two about A) running campaigns in general and B) appealing to moderates in particular. They've gone up against a very strong opponent, and they're behind, but they're not idiots. If progressives are outraged by her behavior, that doesn't necessarily make the behavior bad strategy -- it just means progressives are not the voters she's trying to appeal to. Which... duh.

I mean, you could make a strong argument that all this IS bad strategy, in any case. But it's not prima facie bad strategy just because it leaves liberal bloggers scratching their heads; you could also make a strong argument that there's a method to the madness. We'll see what happens when we get to the convention.

Oh, and about that. For all the talk about mathematical impossibilities and whatnot, Clinton would not still be in it if there weren't an outside chance she could win it. Between superdelegates, Florida and Michigan, and primaries yet to be held, there remain perfectly legal -- albeit implausible and arguably unsavory -- scenarios in which she could get the nomination. And from the looks of things, she's going to exhaust every one of those legal options before she gives up, so you know... get used to it. You don't have to like it, but calling for her to play nice and bow out is pretty much wasting your breath.

Finally, although I've said most of this before, here's where I'm coming from as a progressive, a liberal blogger, and someone who voted for Clinton: I like the idea of President Clinton slightly more than President Obama for lots of reasons, including that she's a woman and that I happen to think they're both moderates, so there's not a true progressive to vote for anyway. Furthermore, I'm a pragmatist, a cynic, and a Chicagoan; I don't believe there's such a thing as a politician who's truly above the fray, period. Not one. (For those who assume Obama couldn't possibly have skeletons in his closet, please see Spitzer, Elliot. See also: politics, Illinois.) There are a WHOLE lot of things I don't like about the behavior of Clinton and her proxies in this campaign, but for me, that's par for the course. I don't like politicians. I think that even the ones who start out with the very best intentions -- which I actually believe both Clinton and Obama did back in their respective days -- end up rotten to some degree or another, because it's a profession that rewards the rotten and punishes the principled.

So why do I vote or follow politics at all? Because I believe that some rotten people are better than others. Some rotten people can get shit done, win against even more rotten people, and advance causes I care about. And in all three of those categories, I believe in Clinton slightly more than I believe in Obama.

Loads of people around here will undoubtedly disagree with me on some or all of those personal beliefs and policies. That's okay. That is, in fact, the point: there's more than one kind of progressive, more than one kind of Democrat, more than one kind of American voter. And the fact is, Clinton has tailored her campaign to voters outside the progressive blogosphere, in which people are overwhelmingly and pretty fucking unsubtly supporting her opponent. That may be deeply offensive and alienating to a whole lot of Democrats -- but it's not necessarily bad strategy. There is a difference.

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