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Wednesday, January 09, 2008


A Long-Winded, Depressing Essay On The New Hampshire Primary

Amazing what happens when a woman cries, isn't it? ;-)

OK, maybe that's facile, and a little mean-spirited, and maybe even sexist. My deepest congratulations to Hillary, and her legions of fans. The Clintons are back, baby!

[Like they were ever gone to begin with.]

I am glad the race will continue now...it was ridiculous for anyone to think that Obama's win in Iowa would put an end to anything, what with the nation galvanized to beat Bush by any means necessary. Hillary is a well-funded, widely-connected, incredibly savvy politician, and it'll take a lot more than one primary to take her (or her husband) out of the running.

As you might surmise, I have mixed feelings about Clinton's victory in New Hampshire. For years, Hillary has been a hero of mine, a powerful woman who has defied odds and changed the world. But what saddens me about this particular moment is that in the last few days, the Democratic race has become a nasty, partisan fight. Suddenly, I'm reminded why Democrats always manage to lose. Because we tear each other down, and we do it with such cruelty.

I started my day on Tuesday morning reading the comments at QTA, where good friends of mine decided to disparage and attack Barack Obama as hard as they could. Here are some quotes:
  • "This nation, I fear, is on the verge of making yet another terrible mistake by overlooking a candidate with strength, passion, substance, and skills so that they can follow the pied-piper whose chants of change may be hollow. We don't know, he has yet to prove he can do anything but give an inspiring speech."
  • "Obama has benefited from progressives who have swooned over him without doing the kind of research Mod Fab has done. It's infuriating to see him depicted as the second coming of FDR while Hillary gets tarred as some kind of reactionary!...He has hardly been a profile in courage."
  • "I want a president who will be able to deal with international flare-ups that could become quite dangerous... like Pakistan... where Bhutto was just assassinated and Musharraf is weakening... and where they have the BOMB. Does it sound like I am trying to use scare tactics?"
  • "Obama (sorry people) doesn't have any problem capitalizing on the Hilary hate and to make it worse, he has issues with the gays too. For these two reasons and the inexperience and the conservative streak, I'm having trouble being thrilled at his media darling status."
Yikes! What had Obama done to deserve such bile? The answer, of course...is he had beat Hillary in Iowa. Which is a crime in Democratic circles, I guess. Her own homophobic politics went unmentioned by the gay men supporting her at QTA; her failures of leadership on Iraq and the economy were glossed over, even by people who are virulently opposed to the war. I was confused, I was shocked...and mostly saddened. Suddenly, it was John Kerry and Howard Dean, all over again. Obama needed to be crushed, because it is supposed to be Hillary's turn in 2008.

So I shook off reading QTA, and went to take a look at the nation's newspapers; if you want to know what the Big Story is on any particular day in Big Media, just look at the pictures on the front cover. On Tuesday, ALL of them -- The New York Times, NY Post, NY Daily News, USA Today, The Washington Post -- had Hillary crying, in full color, on Page One. It's like they realized that they had all been mean to her, and now that they had made a powerful women cry with their vicious coverage -- that Hillary had, finally, broken under their sadomasochistic pressure -- they decided to apologize by suddenly becoming sympathetic on Monday. Suddenly, they were all her friends again. Suddenly, she was "human", "approachable" and "down-to-earth." Suddenly, she was the one they loved. That's how Big Media is. Fickle, and changeable. (I'm going to leave the question of whether her tears were fabricated to the media pundits...I sincerely hope she wasn't faking.)

Did New Hampshire vote for her because she cried? I'd like to think not. I'd like to think that New Hampshirians (New Hampsherites?), with their northeastern roots and conservative political history, simply chose the candidate that was most like themselves. But the last-minute switcheroo, so dramatic and powerful that we'll have to hear about it for at least a week (until Nevada), seems odd.

But that's over now; by the time you read this, the story coming out of New Hampshire will be that Hillary is the "comeback kid", part deux. This is Clintonian legacy, this is history repeating (circa 1992). The truth is -- the actual truth, not the media-spun truth -- is that Obama was ALWAYS the underdog, has always BEEN the underdog, no matter what the media said last weekend. He is fighting not only the entrenched political system of the Republican war machine, but the entrenched political dynasty of the Democrats. And that is a tough road for anyone.

So here's how I think it's going to shake out: I think Clinton takes Nevada, Obama takes South Carolina. And then on February 5th, Clinton wins her strongholds in California and New York, and it's over. You heard it here first: Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2008. Like John Kerry in 2004, it was always meant to be. It is what the party leaders wanted, and they always get what they want.

But can she win? As Pressing The Flesh has been pointing out for almost two years now, Hillary loses the election in national poll match-ups against every Republican candidate. I hope she can overcome those odds. I hope she's more than merely the talented career politician. I hope that she is the second coming of Christ/FDR/JFK that her fans accused Obama of trying to be yesterday. (And I seriously hope she reconsiders her years-long Iraq withdrawal for a speedier, less-bloody plan, and I hope she can somehow tell us how she plans to pay for that health care plan.)

Is this all sour grapes on my part? Yeah, I'll admit to that, even if my Hillary-supporting friends couldn't admit the same after Iowa. But I think I'm justified. After being shocked and dismayed at the vitriol my Clinton-supporting friends launched at Obama yesterday, and after being shocked that Hillary used sexism to her media advantage with the crying jag, and after seeing all of this work so slickly in New Hampshire...I'm sad. Obama gave me hope for America. He stills gives me hope. He makes me believe that, one day, we will have a president who owes very few favors, who can create a transformational culture based on the will of the people. Who is OUR servant, not the other way around.

Clinton will bring change...but not that kind of change. She's part of the system. She likes it this way. She works the angles. She's a backroom dealer, and her hands aren't always clean. I don't mind having that as my candidate...it's a rough world. But with God as my witness, she better fucking play dirty and win this thing. I want her make it fucking HAPPEN. Because if we don't win with Hillary, after passing on the passion, hope, goodness and leadership of Obama...I don't think we will ever recover.

P.S. -- Anderson Cooper is saying this on CNN right now, and Lord, it makes me even sadder: yesterday the polls in New Hampshire showed Obama with a 10% lead. Clinton won tonight by 2%, a 12-point change that came out of nowhere. That means that at least SOME people lied to pollsters...an overwhelmingly white state saying they'd vote for a black man, and then not doing so. Has race has reared its ugly head finally, at long last?

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Blogger The Slabber said...

I agree with just about everything you say here. But I had decided the other day not to get too wound up in expectations or predictions or (especially) media assumptions. It's a genuinely good time to quote Yogi Berra: it ain't over until, uh, well, it's over. I think that American politics, more than ever before, is like horse racing. You just never know who's going to win. And by the way: it's not particularly crazy to imagine that, a year from now, we'll be contemplating President Bloomberg.

1/9/08, 12:07 AM  
Blogger FleshPresser said...

I'm glad you mentioned the last part, about the polls being so horribly skewed. BOTH of the INTERNAL campaign polls had Obama winning... Clinton's camp had it as Obama by eleven, and Obama's team saw themselves winning by fourteen. These, mind you, are INTERNAL numbers, and don't even begin to talk about the volumes of polls (some of which I posted on PTF, but a majority of which I left out because they would have taken up too much room... literally) that had Obama leading by double digits the day before the race.

Now, you can ALWAYS find ONE poll out there that tells you what you want to hear, but when there's a mountain of these statistics out there... well, it truly does make one scratch one's head... at a minimum. When Clinton's campaign is discussing (as they were earlier this afternoon) if they should announce their campaign shifts prior to the loss, or after the loss... well, you know that the numbers are being universally accepted.

So, indeed... what happened?

I'm actually kind of glad that Obama didn't win tonight, though. In the same way that I didn't want to see Clinton coronated, I don't want to see it simply handed to Obama, either.

Did you hear him speak tonight? I thought he was brilliant.

This is going to make Obama a stronger candidate, both in the short term, as well as in the general election (yes, I went there...)

I still believe that Obama stands a VERY strong chance in Nevada (depending on what happens with the Culinary Worker's union) and in South Carolina, and by that time, we'll see how things are shaking out and how the wins/losses reverberate nationally, which will affect Tsunami Tuesday.

Don't give up hope, though... this isn't over by a long shot.

1/9/08, 1:04 AM  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

Well, I still don't know who I'm supporting. I suspect Obama is probably my preferred candidate, but I did think there was a nasty strain of national, strongly chauvinist Schadenfreude swirling around Hillary (well before she lost in Iowa) that I was glad to see QTA call foul on. I'm totally impatient with the "Hillary cried" thing (not least because Hillary didn't cry), but I'm just glad that her victory - hopefully - means longer, closer, more substantive comparisons between her and Barack on their stances, issues, records, etc. I know you're right that an Obama victory in NH wouldn't have cemented a nomination, but my hope is that the split vote so far keeps the conversation even more widely open.

And like I said at QTA, I'm glad to have blogs & perspectives like both of yours that can duke things out in a passionate but productive and informed way. This feels different to me than the standard democratic infighting; this feels like heated, pointed reflection about genuinely provocative candidates. I'm sorry that it all got you down. I'm probably more naïve than you are, but I still don't think anyone knows anything yet about how this all will go.

1/9/08, 1:11 AM  
Blogger Roxie Smith Lindemann said...

I don't get the sadness, Mod Fab. We've got a race on our hands within the Democratic party between a couple of supremely talented candidates. How is that not a good thing? And, for the record, Roxie's World has been making critiques of Obama along these lines for months, so our comments can't be dismissed as post-Iowa sour grapes. I also don't think there was any "bile" in my remarks, but that's beside the point. I will enthusiastically support Obama if he is the eventual nominee. I just happen to think Clinton is the better candidate because of her experience, and I've been frustrated with the media's going all ga-ga over Obama while mindlessly trashing Clinton. The coverage of our politics feels like a threat to democracy sometimes, don't you think? That's why I've taken to hanging out in the blogosphere -- It's prettier, wittier, and, in places, much more constructive than the culture of screaming heads in the MSM.

1/9/08, 8:36 AM  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

i'm sad that racism is mentioned here. and just as casually another inferred jab about possibly fake tears (there weren't any, fake or real as Nick reminds)

talk about the Democrats tearing each other down!

There are substantive examples of sexism in the media portrayals of Clinton but for the most part (aside from that "articulate" issue awhile back with Obama and that HORRIFIC Andy Rooney editorial on 60 Minutes the other day on presidential "names") i haven't seen much racism in the media coverage of Obama, thank God. I'm sure there will be (i'm not that naive) if he goes up against the Republicans, but for now it seems blessedly not that way.

The truth is that either of these candidates is a major change (a good one) for our nation. We NEED to get over our issues with women and with race and it's thrilling that this year, no matter the outcome, is going to push us at least a little forward in that regard.

My thing with Obama has always been this: I hear him speak and it's moving and I see the charisma and he's INFINITELY better than the Republican candidates... but what is he saying? I can't hear anything other than "change" but change to what? I may not be as well informed as yourself and other friends of mine --everytime I try to work on that I get so discouraged because all I read is spin -- but when I hear Hilary speak I hear actual thought processes and actual plans. With Obama (so far) it sounds like cheerleading to me and, yes, like hope (very nice) but after so many years of empty rhetoric that meant nothing or worse meant complete untruths I want the issues and the policies to be discussed. I need to work out the hope for myself. I want plans not peptalk.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: The comeback keeps all of them talking about the issues and we can all get better informed about their policies, strengths and weaknesses.

unarguably I think that's better for everyone.

1/9/08, 9:46 AM  
Blogger ZenDenizen said...

Obama for VP? :)

1/9/08, 9:59 AM  
Blogger JB said...

Watching this election cycle shake out has been compelling. It is certainly the most important election of our lifetime and I think what happened in NH was folks saying "Hey, slow down! Let's take a longer and deeper look at these candidates."

It is far from over and I think for either Clinton or Obama, their running mate will be equally if not more important than which side of the issues they are on when it comes to challenging the other side.

I relate to the frustration though. The thought of a Repuglican victory scares the shit out of me, and seeing those poll numbers saying Clinton can't beat 'em is something I am considering when making up my still undecided mind.

1/9/08, 10:37 AM  
Blogger ModFab said...

Nathaniel, you should do more research. If all you hear is "change" coming from Obama without policy, then you're only hearing the media sound bytes and the stump speech, which is never a policy discussion. Visit his site, do the research...not only on him, but Clinton and everyone. It's vitally important. It's not their responsibility to educate voters, it's OUR responsibility to do that.

On to your other criticisms. First off, Hillary's tears is the media narrative, and my question is not whether she did or not, but whether the media narrative worked on the voters of New Hampshire. And secondarily, did Hillary make a decision to use the sexism of the media to her advantage by seeming "vulnerable"?

As to your dismay over racism appearing in this race...well, where have you been? Have you heard the (Caucasian) pundits for months, "shocked" at how well he's doing, "insisting" that race is not a factor, "admiring" his ability to put complete sentences together? These aren't discussions that would happen about a white candidate, EVER.

But even if you think racism entered this race just yesterday, you have to find a plausible excuse why 12% of New Hampshire voters changed their vote between walking into the voting booth and walking out. Something private happened there, and I don't believe it was merely happenstance.

And your suggestion that only the Republicans will be racist in this race is, well...

1/9/08, 11:09 AM  
Blogger ModFab said...

ZenDenizen, I don't think Obama will ever be Hillary's VP. She's too threatened by him, and after all the mean shit she's said about him in the last week, I don't see any way she could do a turnaround and embrace him as part of her team.

Plus, she's already got a VP...Bill Richardson. Haven't you seen how he's climbed into her pocket of late? ;-)

1/9/08, 11:11 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Why would the nation be "galvanized to beat Bush by any means necessary" when he's not even running? When he is, in fact, forbidden by the Constitution to run? When nobody from his administration is running? I hope no Democrat makes the mistake of running against somebody who's not actually in the race.

1/9/08, 11:44 AM  
Blogger ModFab said...

Mike, if you don't think Bush is running, you're missing the rhetoric of McCain, Romney and Giuliani. All three are endorsing the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, of nuclear proliferation, of extended occupation of Iraq, of possible war with Iran, and of increased national debt via unsupportable tax cuts. Among Republicans, only Huckabee and Ron Paul seem to deviate from the Bush Administration in any substantive way.

Bush (the person) may be unable to run, but Bush (the ideology) is definitely on the ballot in 2008.

1/9/08, 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really, really love your site (I just nominated you for a slew of Bloggies), but I'm disheartened by this post. I kept track of you and qta's discussions yesterday, and I found the discussion interesting. This one, though, seems different to me.

Do you really consider the cited quotes from portions of that discussion to be dispraging and attacking Obama? If you do, and if he is the nominee, then you may not survive what Republicans will be saying about him. There are an awful lot of Obama supporters who have downright nasty things to say about Clinton, too, you know. There are clear distinctions between the two candidates, and different people respond differently.

I, personally, believe that the debate did more to change the dynamic in NH more than her emotional (not crying, my friend) moment in the diner on Monday. Obama, unfortunately, did not have his best performance in the debate. And his little buddy, John Edwards, came off as caustic and harsh (as he seems to do often, lately). The appeared to gang up on her, and it did not look fair.

Obama and the media seemed to have bought into (as you appear to have done) the "wave." All of a sudden, all that anyone heard was how unstoppable Obama would be. He very well may be unstoppable. Voters, however, make the decision, and Democratic voters in NH chose Clinton. (Personally, I an annoyed that independents get to vote in primaries - register for the party if you want to have a say so as to who my nominee is!)

Obama is a gifted speaker and undeniably brilliant. He could still catapult himself to the nomination. He has TONS of money at his disposal to do it.

Nevertheless, it is important for me to consider that he has only been in the Senate for three year. There are some distinctions to be drawn, as well. For example, he has a great deal of hard nosed rhetoric on lobbyists, but his campaign heads in both NH and SC are Washington lobbyists.

The best thing about this is that we, Democrats, have two fantastic candidates. People did not think that Hillary could convince upper state New Yorkers that she could represent them, but she did. Obama's political and personal talents have shown him to be a more-than-formidable candidate.

I can certainly respect people for their political positions, but I hope that others' political positions don't come at the expense of respect for mine.

1/9/08, 1:11 PM  
Blogger ModFab said...

Great post, ccopeland...arguably my favorite of the day (including my own!).

I think you're right that the Republicans will attack Obama (and Clinton) harder than they will attack each other. I had just hoped that they wouldn't devour each other, which is the Democratic pattern...because when we do that, we lose. Republicans may fight in the primary, but they will be in lockstep behind their nominee come November. Can Democrats do the same? Will you vote for Obama if he wins, despite your concerns (and the media-fueled storyline) that he doesn't have enough experience? Will you vote for him if he bashes Hillary (which you suggest he will eventually do)?

I agree that the debate was bad for Obama, and terrible for Edwards. But the idea that they "ganged up" on Hillary is one of perception, and I think it's based in sexism...that she is somehow a delicate flower who can sling shit about Obama's record without recompense, but must be victimized when Edwards does the same to her.

You're also right about the ridiculousness of the idea that Obama was (or is) "unstoppable." He's not, of course. Iowa was a surprise to everyone, including me. (If you look at my articles prior to Iowa, you'll see that I picked him to be third...and that Edwards would win Iowa. Shows what I know.) The media ran with the idea that Iowa is somehow a national mandate, and it was foolish for anyone to believe it.

Your discussion of lobbyists is interesting to me. For you, you hold it against Obama that he proposes, as president, to hold a hard line against lobbyists, but has two working as volunteers for his campaign. For me, however, it's more troubling that Hillary will not make a similar-sized commitment to curtail lobbyists' power in Washington. We just see it differently, I think: where you see hypocrisy, I see at least the promise of change, which Hillary does not (or will not) make.

There's respect all around: for those who support Clinton (and have researched her positions in depth), I have nothing but the utmost respect. Yes, I see her political maneuvers and call her on them, but that doesn't mean I don't respect her...not in the least. She has been, and remains, one of my personal heroes.

1/9/08, 2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Favorite of the day?!?! Yay!

2 things:

1. I don't hold it against Obama that lobbyists run his NH and SC campaigns; however, I find it disingenuous for him, at the same time, to condemn Clinton as beholden to lobbyists.

2. Of course I'll vote for Obama if he's the nominee! I'm quite proud to be a Democrat. I am also strongly optomistic that we will have a Democrat in the White House one year and eleven days from today.

1/9/08, 3:06 PM  
Blogger rob said...

It sounds to me as if you're longing for Edwards.
He polls as being the one candidate that beats every possible republican nominee.
He's for the people, not the corporations.
A ticket of Edwards/Obama would be a very strong chance of 16 years of Democrat control of the executive branch.

1/9/08, 3:34 PM  
Blogger DBK said...

"last-minute switcheroo"

That's the flaw in this ointment (and yes, I know the actual saying is "fly in the ointment"...I was being creative so, in the words of Kathy Griffin, suck it). The CW that there was a "last-minute switcheroo" depends on everyone believing that the polling was not wrong.

1/11/08, 2:49 PM  

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