PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES AS VICTIMS: A BRIEF HISTORY
Richard Cohen in his Washington Post column today:
...[Hillary Clinton] ran as only a woman could. She acknowledged that she had been a victim, which, of course, she was. She referred to it occasionally, sometimes with great charm, sometimes with humor, and for some voters -- particularly older women who often know a bit about life that men don't -- it was something of a selling point.
A man could never have done anything similar. A man cannot play the victim....
Nonsense. Being a victim (admittedly not a sexual one) has been a subtext of, by my estimation, every Republican presidential campaign since 1964. Republicans always tell us (or strongly imply) that they're victims -- of coastal elitists, college professors, secular humanists, nonwhites, feminists, gays ... you name it. Hillary Clinton has just put her own spin on this time-tested approach to campaigning for president.
And maybe her approach hasn't really been all that original -- maybe all she's done is add an (admittedly quite valid) charge of sexism, as well as her personal narrative, to an off-the-shelf GOP campaign template. Eric Alterman:
...it can hardly be a coincidence that the punditocracy swung behind the Clintons and against Obama just as her campaign began to rely on the same set of right-wing talking points that Republican presidential campaigns have employed against Democrats since 1968. Obama was too liberal. Obama was too effeminate. Obama was too elitist. Obama could not win the votes of "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans."
... once the nomination began to go Obama's way, the Clintons pivoted right. Hillary harped on Bill Ayers's terrorist past and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's lunatic statements and told an interviewer that there was no basis for rumors that Obama was a Muslim "as far as I know." Bill Clinton said he looked forward to her victory over Obama so we could have an election between "two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country." The candidate embraced McCain's intellectually indefensible gas tax holiday and, when questioned about it, repudiated a lifetime of high-minded wonkery by insisting that economists enjoyed no special expertise when it came to economics. Bill Clinton made the ethos of his wife's campaign explicit in Clarksburg, West Virginia, when he announced, "The great divide in this country is not by race or even income, it's by those who think they are better than everyone else and think they should play by a different set of rules." His target was not the corporate elite but a liberal black man raised, like himself, by a lower-middle-class single mother....
All of which gets me back to something Aimai said in the comments to this post:
I don't get why you are so angry that some people still feel that HRC's candidacy was important to them, or won't get on board with Obama, or that they still have some grieving to do, or that they don't dismiss her candidacy as quite as unimportant as you do.
Yeah, maybe I'm overdoing it. But first of all, I don't put this in the past -- I don't think Clinton supporters are grieving yet because I think most of them still believe she can win the race. Hillary Clinton and her team are encouraging them to believe this, and to believe that anyone who says otherwise is a sexist/elitist pig; the campaign wants supporters to continue feeling aggrieved and victimized by a hydra-headed chauvinist/yuppie beast that includes everyone from journalists who can do simple delegate math to the "Iron My Shirt" idiots to the female McCain supporter who said "How can we beat the bitch?," but has Barack Obama's head front and center. The campaign has supporters riled up in a way Nixon and Agnew would have admired, and at some of the same targets:
"I'm real tired of the pundits telling me the race is over -- telling America what it should think," said Dorinda Perkins, 63, a lab technician. "I do not want her to quit."
And there's no evidence whatsoever that the fight is going to end after the last primary:
She made it clear at every stop that she has every intention of keeping her campaign going, raising questions about whether she will throw in the towel on June 3, the day of the last primaries, as some Democrats had hoped.
(I've had the naive thought that an Obama win in Oregon that's bigger than Clinton's win in Kentucky might end this, but that's naive -- maybe an Obama victory in Kentucky would end this, but nothing less, and probably not even that.)
This matters because the longer the Clinton campaign encourages this sense of grievance, the more likely it is that many Clinton supporters will just stay home, or decide the proper way to strike a blow for sexism is to vote for the guy whose Supreme Court justices would, unquestionably, overturn Roe v. Wade. Not voting for Clinton could very well be this year's version of voting for Nader.
So, OK, I'm being a boor, and I should let Clinton supporters go through the stages of grieving. I just wish the Clinton campaign would stop trying to keep them in the denial stage.