Why She Said What She Said…

May 24, 2008 at 5:17 pm (Uncategorized)

…and why she should get out, and no you haven’t already read this posted or written a gajillion other times already this weekend…

First off, unless you’ve spent the last 24 hours in a cave, you’re probably aware that Senator Clinton seems to have really quite monumentally stepped in it.

I think the intent of her statement is pretty clear. The question (and this is itself important to the thesis of this post) was to question her justification for staying in the race at this point, despite the fact that the math says that she cannot win. I think it is clear that she meant to show that nomination campaigns that stretch into June are hardly unusual or ahistoric, and on that point, she’s correct; in my lifetime, the nomination race in the Democratic party went late into the season in 1972, 1980, and 1984; for the Republicans, 1976 was a cycle that went all the way to the convention. At any rate, Senator Clinton was clearly attempting to show that these things happen, and used as example the 1968 race, I suppose because something rather memorable (infamous, more accurately) happened then that will bring to mind connotations of “June” and “Democratic nomination being up in the air” for the general voting public.

Yes, I know. That’s a rather inelegant choice of items for “let me jog your memory here” material. But, she’s done it before, and didn’t bring down the firestorm she did yesterday, so she went to that well again. The big difference between what she said this time and what she said in a March 6 interview with TIME magazine is that this time she gave her rationale in a remarkably clumsy way, suggesting by her phraseology that she was basically staying in the race in case Senator Obama got himself killed (because he’s black, you know, and that could happen.)

The point here isn’t what she said, but moreover why, and why her answer still sucks even with context. As a few TV pundits have pointed out, she could’ve used 1980 (Kennedy-Carter) or 1984 (Hart-Mondale) as examples of late-running nomination fights. Instead, she picked 1968. Why that year, with all the tragedy and sadness that it brought to Democrats? Think about it. 1968, all problems aside, still resulted in a very, very close election in November. A few votes change hands in the Deep South–or George Wallace doesn’t run a third-party candidacy–and Nixon is defeated.

1968 was very close, in other words, and that’s why she invoked it, because should she bring up the 1980 and 1984 nomination campaigns, they immediately beg the further observation: given how terribly the Democrats performed in November those two occasions, why again are you still in this? That’s the point pundits have been making for over a month now–no close nomination process has resulted in a successful campaign in the general in modern memory. The best that any candidate out of such a late nomination managed was Humphrey’s 1968 defeat by Nixon, and as such that election has become Hillary’s go-to exemplar.

And now, one would hope, she’s done bringing up 1968, which means that if she’s looking for historical perspective on her late challenge, she’s looking at Democrats being crushed in a General Election and taking Democrats down-ticket with them.

That isn’t a very good reason to stay in, and she knows this.

Hopefully the uncommitted super delegates realize this as well and will now be emboldened into bringing her vanity candidacy to a close now.

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