Thursday, March 13, 2008

How Clinton wins If Democrats Lose

One of the easiest traps to fall into in writing philosophy papers is the strawman fallacy where you take someone's position you disagree with and attack a weaker version of it instead of the strongest possible version as required by what logicians call the principle of charity. I often warn students, if it seems like a really smart person is saying something really stupid, there's probably something there you are missing.And so it is, I think, with the Clinton campaign's scorched earth, kitchen sink approach.

In his op/ed in the Huffington Post, Senator and former Presidential front runner Gary Hart puts it this way,

It will come as a surprise to many people that there are rules in politics. Most of those rules are unwritten and are based on common understandings, acceptable practices, and the best interest of the political party a candidate seeks to lead. One of those rules is this: Do not provide ammunition to the opposition party that can be used to destroy your party's nominee. This is a hyper-truth where the presidential contest is concerned.

By saying that only she and John McCain are qualified to lead the country, particularly in times of crisis, Hillary Clinton has broken that rule, severely damaged the Democratic candidate who may well be the party's nominee, and, perhaps most ominously, revealed the unlimited lengths to which she will go to achieve power. She has essentially said that the Democratic party deserves to lose unless it nominates her.

As a veteran of red telephone ads and "where's the beef" cleverness, I am keenly aware that sharp elbows get thrown by those trailing in the fourth quarter (and sometimes even earlier). "Politics ain't beanbag," is the old slogan. But that does not mean that it must also be rule-or-ruin, me-first-and-only-me, my way or the highway. That is not politics. That is raw, unrestrained ambition for power that cannot accept the will of the voters.
Others say that it is "raw, unrestrained ambition" coupled with a lack of foresight, no campaign planning beyond Super Tuesday. "She will stop at nothing to be President," the line goes.

But this makes no sense. Senator Clinton is an incredibly smart person. She knows that by capturing a third of the states and nearly half of the delegates, as she would have by running a vigorous campaign that did not poison the well she could have played hardball behind the scenes and guaranteed herself the second slot. The "dream ticket" scenario was so much in the air and there was so much love all the way round that it would have been simple to grow it. If the ticket lost, all blame goes to the top and then she is the all but guaranteed nominee in four years, or the ticket wins and she is a shoo-in in eight. If the real goal was merely ambition to be President Hillary, it could have been easily done.

Yet, she chose not to do this, instead she chose to run a kamikaze campaign intentionally designed to harm the party as a whole. She is too smart not to know what she is doing. She knows full well she is handing ammo to McCain, that instead of causing there to be questions about the opposition's greatest strength, that she is bolstering it. Why then would she do it? What does Clinton stand to gain if the Democrats lose? Why would a smart person in her place prefer it? Chalking it up to flubs and fumbles from lack of planning is a strawman.

Step one is to realize that the President is not a person, it is a team. We are voting merely for team captain. All those people in her campaign are going to be part of the Presidential collective and as a result not only achieve great power for a time, but become THE ESTABLISHMENT thereafter.

There has been no Democratic President since Bill Clinton, what does this mean? In a two party system, it means that the Clintocrats -- whether the Democrats are in the majority or not -- are the go to folks for the Democratic side of things. When CNN, MSNBC, or even FoxNews need to put up a Democrat, who do they get? James Carville or Paul Begala -- Clinton's people. The three top political tv jobs are the Sunday news programs. The first of the boomers to get one of those positions? George Stephanopolous, Clinton's press person. Lawrence Summers? President of Harvard. And these are just the high profile ones. Behind the scene power brokers and consultants? High paid K Street lobbyists? These are people who learned how to come into incredible wealth and make unbelievable careers with the Democrats out of power. They don't care if the Democrats lose because as long as they remain the establishment, they win. They know how to parlay Democratic losses into their hyperbolic gains, they've been doing it for twelve years.

What does threaten them? A new Democratic administration. As soon as there is a Democratic President not named Clinton, they become old news. A new Establishment is established. A new team becomes the cool crowd and they look to news, political, and lobbying interests like has-beens thinking they are cool for still wearing Joe Jackson style narrow ties and Flock of Seagulls haircuts.

the President is not a person, the President is a team and an Obama win is the worst possible outcome for that team. A Clinton Presidency -- which they expected to the point of developing a sense of entitlement -- would perpetuate their power for at least another twelve years. A Clinton nomination and loss to McCain would guarantee their power for at least eight if McCain was re-elected, twelve if Hillary could get renominated and win a re-match. But it would end next January if some young upstart upset the apple cart.

This is not about legacy. It is not about personal ambition. This is an entire group of people who have been the Heathers in DC for a generation suddenly facing the possibility of getting left behind and losing everything they have had -- regardless of whether Democrats have any power. The Clintocrats know what the threat is and they know that the only scenario in which they lose is should the Democrats win without them. So, drag the party down? Not really a problem to them.