Thursday, May 08, 2008


I know I should join the pack and see cold, calculating naked race-baiting in the fact that Hillary Clinton said the following to a USA Today reporter, while her campaign gave the paper an audio version of the interview so we could all hear the clip:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

I just can't tell how calculated the race talk is. She used an automatic, empty campaign-trail phrase -- "hard-working Americans" -- and stuck it in the middle of yet another invocation of her better numbers among the white working class. I just don't know if she's really saying, or even thinking on a subconscious level, that "hard-working" = "white."

However, she sure as hell isn't trying very hard not to race-bait. She certainly isn't weighing her words in an effort to avoid saying things that might give racial offense.

Whatever the intent, she really, really wants us to hear this. She really wants to continue proclaiming that those who disagree with her are the enemies of the party.


That's what bothers the most about what she's doing now: the sense -- and I get it from everything she says these days -- that, as a Clinton, she knows how elections are won and you and I don't, she has an instinctive understanding of precisely what compromises and panders and nods and winks get you to 50.1% of the vote and you and I don't, and she's not going to stop doing this until the rest of us see reason and reject anyone who has a different game plan.

And as I noted yesterday, she's wrong about working-class whites -- exit polls from 1996 and 2000 show that Democrats do win elections, or at least popular-vote victories, with huge deficits among the very voters she's courting now. And she's probably wrong in her demographic analysis if an inspiring candidate really brings new voters into the Democratic electorate -- which should happen this year, and did happen in, er, 1992.

A Clinton soundbite I heard on NPR this morning: "We have to figure out who would be the stronger candidate, because, at the end of the day, that is what matters most." No, Hillary, it isn't. What matters most is to pick one of the two candidates who are running neck-and-neck with John McCain and get on with the business of winning by uniting behind that candidate.

But that's the Clinton message, from both Hill and Bill: We're going to freeze this process until you see reason. She says it smugly, he gets red-faced and self-righteous, but it's the same talking point: We have a monopoly on savvy and attention must be paid.

Thomas Edsall, Taegan Goddard, and others can talk all they want about what bribes might be offered if Hillary drops out (her campaign debt will be retired! some issue of hers will be addressed by Obama!), but the Clintons simply don't care. A month ago it was reliably reported that Hillary Clinton told Bill Richardson flat out that Obama can't win. Mark Penn said for the record that Obama can't win. This is the argument, and it's like a horrible late-night marital argument -- it isn't going to end until we admit the Clintons are right.

Or until we walk out the door.

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