Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 19, 2007
POLITICS: Yes, Hillary Will Win The Nomination.

BarackLazio2.JPGWe've all heard the whispers, we've all seen the signs, we've all read the polls: Hillary Clinton is trailing Barack Obama in Iowa, her lead is in single digits in New Hampshire and within the margin of error in South Carolina. Youth and idealism will triumph. The Power of Oprah will turn the tide. Everybody's saying she could suddenly be vulnerable; lots of people are saying out loud that she could lose. All of our expectations could be unsettled; we could be facing Obama after all, an opponent who brings a wholly different set of strengths and vulnerabilitites to the table.

Don't believe it.

Sure, it's tempting to think the Democrats will have a real race on their hands, and perhaps for a time they will. But fundamentally, primary elections are dominated and decided by partisans - people who identify with a party and go to the effort of registering and showing up to vote in intraparty elections. People who feel strongly about their side, in short. And when you consider the psychology of the typical partisan on either side, and apply it to the situation of Democratic voters in 2008, it becomes quickly apparent why it will be impossible for a critical mass of such partisans to be convinced to vote against Hillary.

Jonah Goldberg aptly describes how the Clintons are playing to their partisan crowd:

Bill Clinton has been stumping for his wife on the Iowa hustings, framing the election as a referendum on his tenure as president. . .

Last summer, when he first started hawking Hillary like a door-to-door salesman, he told a crowd: "I know some people say, 'Look at them. They're old. They're sort of yesterday's news.'...

"Well," Slick Willie said, grinning, "yesterday's news was pretty good."

Indeed, Hillary's entire campaign has been grounded in her experience in the Clinton administration of the 1990s, even though that experience mostly involves designing a failed health-care plan and unsuccessfully hectoring her husband to move to the left. Still, as New York Times editorial writer Adam Cohen noted in a column last week, it was her decision to make the choice between her and Barack Obama a "referendum on a decade."

Why is this important? Because it explains why Democrats who vote in primaries simply cannot pull the lever against Hillary: it would mean admitting that returning the Clintons to the White House would not be the greatest of all possible things. It's inconceivable. (And yes, Democrats of all people are very practiced at refusing to understand what that word means). Sure, left-wing ideologues and activists may be willing to do that, especially those who ground their teeth for 8 years and viewed the Clintons as little more than moderate Republicans. But not the rank and file of the party.


We Republicans have had 5 Presidents in the past 40 years; we can retain some perspective on their respective weaknesses. Besides Carter, who ended in defeat so ignominious that nobody but maybe Chris Matthews defends him on any grounds other than being well-intentioned, Clinton is all Democrats have, and his Administration must therefore be held up as All Things Good. And if you are emotionally invested in the idea that Clinton was a great president and all criticisms of him were manifestations of right-wing mania, right-wing racism, right-wing conspiracy, right-wing-being-threatened-by-powerful-women, and right-wing latent homosexuality (the Sid Blumenthal theory, I kid you not), it is nearly impossible to construct a justification for refusing a third helping, unless you are morally convinced that she cannot win in November. And the Clintons' prior record of electoral success, for a party that has lost so many national elections, stands as a barrier to that argument as well.

As Jim Geraghty has noted, this is doubly the case because of how hard rank and file Democrats dug themselves in against the scandals of the Clinton years:

Whitewater, the cattle futures, the disappearing and reappearing billing records - on every scandal, most grassroots Democrats came to her defense, and insisted she was the blameless victim of a partisan witch hunt. When health care reform went down in flames, they had to overlook her faults. Chinese fundraising? Renting out the Lincoln Bedroom? Time and again, they looked at emerging facts - or perhaps the proper metaphor is closed their eyes - and declared, "it is not her fault, she has done nothing wrong."

Finally, the women: Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Monica Lewinsky: on each of them, grassroots Democrats told themselves, and the rest of the country, that the charges were false, that this wasn't the public's concern, that each and every one of the tawdry tales was a puritan smear job of the right-wing conspiracy.

We laughed at Michael Kelly's "I Believe" column. To our friends on the left, there was nothing funny or ironic about it.

Now, these same Democrats are supposed to be persuaded when Obama or Edwards brings up the pardon of Marc Rich? They're supposed to turn on her because one of them reminds them of disappearing White House silverware?

Declaring that Hillary Clinton has done nothing wrong is as instinctive as breathing to many Democrats now.

Nominating Obama or Edwards over Hillary now would invalidate all of those defenses over the years. It would mean her critics had a point all these years, and they cannot concede that core belief they've held close to their hearts for a decade and a half. Democrats aren't just supportive of Hillary Clinton's rise to the presidency: they're emotionally and intellectually invested in it.

Goldberg underlines how this would play out if Hillary is repudiated by her own party:

[I]f Hillary Clinton loses the race for the nomination -- heck, even if she just loses the Iowa caucuses -- I hope to see this headline somewhere, perhaps in the New York Post: "America to Clinton(s): We're Just Not That Into You."

The rush of schadenfreude would be so overwhelming, the entire Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy would have to hie itself to its fainting couch.

elrushbo.JPGHeck, Rush Limbaugh would enter the Guiness Book for schadenfreude. Can you imagine Rush's reaction? I tell you this, somewhere in their heart of hearts, Democrats all across this land of ours will enter the voting booth with that miniature Voice of Rush playing somewhere in the back of their heads, laughing and laughing and laughing, and they will tell themselves that Obama is young and it's not his turn yet. And they will pull the lever for Bill's wife.

Remember: no matter what else we may think strategically about 2008, if Hillary were rejected by her own party, every one of us would do The Jig To End All Jigs over her defeat. That's a sound Democratic primary voters simply cannot hear.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)

Hmmm. I think the right overrates the degree to which the left is still fighting the battles of the Clinton era. I don't see a lot of Iowa farmers wringing their hands over possibly pleasing Rush Limbaugh. I think Hillary is likely to win, mostly because the pundits who are constantly listening to the wind tend to underestimate older voters, who (among Democats) are likely to still have loyalty to the Clintons, and less susceptability to the lure of Obama as flavor-of-the-month.

Posted by: Jerry at December 19, 2007 8:18 PM

I don't know a single Democrat who is basing their vote on what Republicans will think or how they will react.

But thanks for caring.

She'll win (if she does) simply because she's the establishment candidate, and that makes her the favorite. That's really all there is to it.

I'm hoping you're wrong. I'd rather have Obama or Edwards get the nomination, and tap Dodd for VP.

Posted by: Mr Furious at December 19, 2007 10:55 PM

I'm of the opinion that your analysis is correct and republicans will have to counter "yesterday's news was pretty good." I'm not sure they can do it successfully.

Posted by: anon in tx at December 19, 2007 11:19 PM

Jim Geraghty must be off his Prolixin, like Crank, because he's hallucinating.

To bring up a litany of "scandals" from the Clinton years, while ignoring the same from the Bush ones, is simply deceptive.

Posted by: Marko at December 20, 2007 7:50 AM

Marko wrote:
To bring up a litany of "scandals" from the Clinton years, while ignoring the same from the Bush ones, is simply deceptive.

umm...last time I checked, Bush isn't one of the candidates for president in '08, but thanks for playing.

Posted by: Heavy C at December 20, 2007 8:14 AM

Whether or not the Democrats vote for Hillary will not necessarily depend on what they think about Bill's presidency. Like the Crank, Democrats also consider whether their candidate can actually win the -general- election, and Democrats have good reason to believe that Hillary would lose.

Posted by: MVH at December 20, 2007 10:15 AM

As a republican, my only reason for wishing that Hillary NOT getting the Democratic nomination is then there is NO chance of her being President in 2009.

If any Democrate BUT her get the nomination, I think most of the Republican candidates can win. If she gets the nominations, I still think the Republicans can win with Guliani but I am not as confident of the other Republicans.

Posted by: Lee at December 20, 2007 12:14 PM

"last time I checked, Bush isn't one of the candidates for president in '08, but thanks for playing."

Checkout the GOP debates. All but Ron Paul, and to a lesser extent Huckabee, are running on 'more of the same' after Bush.

Posted by: Robert at December 20, 2007 1:32 PM

Ever notice how many times the wrong damn candidate wins? Thought I would muse about it here:

LBJ over Goldwater. Great Swiftboating of Barry by one of the dirtiest politicians we ever had in office. Any office in this country.

Result: we get LBJ sliming it up (although he would have won with the JFK halo effect anyway), and don't get a genuinely intelligent man in office. And it lays the foundation for Nixon. Had Goldwater been in office, Dick never gets a shot.

Nixon over Humphrey: I remember 1968 too well. And LBJ screwed the pooch so much that Hubert, another intelligent guy, with no real leadership skills though, doesn't get the job, losing to a lying SOB--think Bush Gore.

Nixon over McGovern: Nobody wins here.

Carter over Ford: Anything to get away from Nixon, Carter is among the worst Presidents in my memory (he was the worst until W came along).

Bush over Mondale: two actually similar kinds of people, different politics but both ran really on what they did, and being president was their due. Atwater made GHB a dirty guy though, and it became the family business.

Clinton over Dole: While I don't care for Dole's politics, he was a hero, and a genuine person, who did what he said he would. Clinton won because of Perot. And Bush gets that back with Nader and Gore. What does around comes around.

And now it seems that nobody really likes the people running. A lot of the right is now in love with Huckabee because he is such a religious reactionary (and he better not get flu shots if he doesn't believe in evolution), but the rest of the country I think doesn't want him; McCain is a hero and is a lot like Dole, a better speaking voice I think. Among the Dems, Biden is the most reasonable of the candidates, and of course, has no chance whatsoever.

And Reagan would now not get the far right endorsement for not being religiously conservative enough. Something is seriously wrong with the far right wing if the most beloved president since FDR would not have a chance.

I say vote for John Stewart. At lease we would have some fun.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 20, 2007 1:58 PM

Robert wrote:
....running on 'more of the same' after Bush

check the original post i was responding to. it was about the "scandals" of clinton & bush, not about policy.

Daryl Rosenblatt wrote:
Bush over Mondale

quick check: reagan over mondale...bush over dukakis

Posted by: Heavy C at December 20, 2007 2:50 PM

Heavy C wrote:

"umm...last time I checked, Bush isn't one of the candidates for president in '08, but thanks for playing."

Yeah, I can see where a potential candidate(s) would be held under more scrutiny than the actual President...

Posted by: Marko at December 20, 2007 4:50 PM

Crank must have been on some hevy psycho-tropic drugs before writing that post. Only a paranoid wing-nut republican could think that a democrat cares at all about how republicans would react to Hillary losing the nomination.

All we care about is removing peaceably (with Cheney in office you never know) the most corrput and incompetent administration in our history. Bush, Cheney ,et. al have done more to dishonor our country than was conceivable (and, yes, I understand what that word means, with or without the prefix).

The GOP has a christianist nut case who doesn't believe in evolution, a liar who'll change positions at the drop of a hat, a fascist former mayor and his band of jolly bag men and one true war hero willing to stand on principle (most of the time).

Posted by: Magrooder at December 20, 2007 5:48 PM

Shame on me Heavy. I did it from memory, not the most trustworthy form of research.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 20, 2007 8:59 PM

Marko wrote:
Yeah, I can see where a potential candidate(s) would be held under more scrutiny than the actual President...

way to beat up that straw man....would you LOOK at geharty's writing. you're validating his argument...that there are elements SO invested in the clinton mythos that they'll put hillary in the white house just to have bubba back as first dude.

look, i'm still convinced that the setup is for hillary to be the comeback gal, a la bill. i just think if the democrats nominate someone running that high on the negatives, they'll hand the election to the GOP, short of us running ron paul (or huck, IMO).

Posted by: Heavy C at December 20, 2007 10:03 PM

Heavy C,

My health insurance was better from 93-00, as was my asthma. My 401K was in better shape. I could actually go outside a few days in the Summer.

The "Clinton Years" if one has to pick one to replicate, were sure of hell lot better on me, and millions of others, than the Bush era, or the Reagan years, for that matter.

I'm glad you're income is high enough that none of this matter, although most Republicans live in trailer parks nowadays...

Posted by: Marko at December 20, 2007 10:29 PM

"I'm glad you're income is high enough that none of this matter, although most Republicans live in trailer parks nowadays..."

Yep, the usual - behind the facade of most rank leftism is shallow snobbery. Saw it all too often when I lived in San Francisco.

Posted by: tsmonk at December 21, 2007 9:38 AM

If the Republicans would field a strong candidate, the odds of Hillary getting the nomination would likely decline. But as it is, even she -- a very weak, unlikeable general election candidate -- would probably beat the likes of Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee or Rudy Giuliani (not so sure about McCain, but he's not going to get the nomination).
It's too bad. IMHO, Obama may not have the traditional experience for the job, but he's a good, honorable man who has shown wisdom and judgment beyond his years. I expect, though, that the The Crank is right -- Democrats are either too stupid or too invested in righting the wrongs of the past seven years to see beyond ugly partisanship and will vote for the former First Lady.

Posted by: Ryan at December 21, 2007 9:55 AM

Marko wrote:
I'm glad you're income...'s YOUR, not YOU'RE.

/spelling/grammar nazi
//and I'M the uneducated trailer trash?
///trailer trash? yes, uneducated? no.

Posted by: Heavy C at December 21, 2007 10:54 AM

Righting the wrongs of the past 7 years would be such a huge mistake.

You would have been the guy at Nuremberg saying, "Can't we just let bygones be bygones?"

Obama's problem is he's falling for Broder's "bipartisan schtick".
He wants to bring a birthday card to a knife-fight.
I noticed how the Conservative/ Right in America dropped their hatred of all things Clinton on 1/20/2001. (eyes rolling, almost out of my head)

Posted by: Robert in BA at December 29, 2007 5:52 PM
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