January 27, 2008

The Arrogance of Arrogance: Thoughts on the South Carolina Democratic Primary 2008


The Clintons fucked up. There really is no other way to describe Hillary Clinton’s showing in South Carolina’s Democratic Primary. Yes, I am sure Clinton supporters will parrot President Bill, claiming that Obama’s landslide is as relevant as a Jesse Jackson primary win and that it was to be expected because South Carolina is a “Black state.” Let us put aside the cynical and borderline racist insinuation that the Black vote doesn’t count and turn to the exit polls. Numbers show that the only groups Senator Clinton won were people over 65 and White women. Except for White men, who went for Edwards, Obama won in every other demographic group. Obama was second with White men and even among White women he had a decent showing. To write Obama’s victory off as a Black thing is not only insulting to all of those who voted for Obama, Black or White, but is where the Clintons are fucking up. The message it sends to people is “Unless you are with us, you are against us,” a stink the Clintons have been throwing off publicly since they attacked entertainment mogul David Geffen for holding an Obama fundraiser way back in 2007.

The Clinton’s arrogance is not just theirs. It permeates their supporters. The Black Democrat and Civil Rights elite were as complicit as the Clintons in pushing the “Bill Clinton as the first Black president” line and claiming that Obama was not “Black enough” for African Americans, two assertions full of equal amounts of absurdity and bullshit. The Clintons not so subtle claims that Miss Hillary was owed the Black vote were doubled by much of the Black establishment. Whether the Black political elite are too used to being treated as a power block and not as individuals or they feared that Obama would not garner any White votes, I am not sure. But I do know that they eased off the vocal and knee-jerk Clinton support once Obama won Iowa. I also suspect that the Black elite backed off when they saw that African American Democrats were not looking at the race as a Black/White thing but as one between hope & aspirations and the Same Old Shit.

Women over 50 are big Clinton supporters. Senator Clinton is “one of them” and an alum of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Because of this, the Senator’s female supporters believe it is the duty of all women to vote for Clinton, whether or not they agree with her politics, her conduct, or her record. I’ve heard female Clinton supporters say that any woman who votes for Obama is a “traitor to her gender.” Young women who support Obama are portrayed as immature and simple minded. Others have stated that not only does Hillary deserve the vote because she is a woman, but that she is owed the presidency because of her status as scorned woman and wife of a heel. This kind of “sisterhood” is identity politics at its worst, a totalitarianism that demands obedience due to tribal membership rather than weighing merit, ideas, intellect, accomplishments, character, leadership skills, empathy, and any number of other things that one would want in a president. The arrogance of the Vote Woman camp denies the importance of free thought and the real power of choice.

Then there are the Democratic Party elite, the Centrist money machine who would like nothing more than another four to eight years of Clinton politics. They seem to forget that Smiling Bill’s popularity is a post-presidential phenomenon. When he ran for his first term, many liberal Dems voted for him out of duty and, once elected, were quick to attack him over his serial bombing of Iraq, welfare reform, and other Republican lite policies. The behind the scenes tension between establishment Dems and the wave of new recruits the Obama campaign is bringing in is thick. Much pressure is being exerted on the Democratic rank & file to support Hillary. Now that it seems that the Kennedy wing of the Dem elite is swinging behind Obama, expect that tension to increase. Whether it breaks out into the open or not, who knows, but down below, the screws are being turned on elected Dems to support the anointed candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Lastly, the Clintons treat voters as idiots. Take the Clinton spin of Obama’s Reagan quote. Obama correctly called President Ronald Reagan a “transcendent figure” in American history, a president who was able to push through policies that the majority of Americans did not agree with that lead to substantial change. This is not Obama expressing an opinion or stating support for Reagan, as the Clintons would like us to believe. Obama is simply sharing the conclusion made by many a historian. Polls conducted during Reagan’s presidency show that though most Americans like Reagan the person, they did not support his policies. History shows that Democrats in Congress often voted against their interest and in support of Reagan’s initiatives. History also shows that the Democratic Party moved to the right in order to court “Reagan Democrats.” Whether the above were good or bad ideas is debatable; however, there is no argument about what happened. And that is exactly what Obama was saying. That the Clintons turn Obama’s observation (and warning that such a strategy betrays Democratic ideals) as proof that he is a closet Reaganite presumes that you and I cannot look at history and make our own conclusions. It assumes that the Clintons hold the One True Interpretation of History and that, despite contrary evidence, we have to support that view…well, kind of. The Clintons know as clearly as I do what Obama meant and I am sure that one on one in a room with no recording equipment and where my memory would be erased once I left, they would say, “Yeah, Obama is right on that point.” They would be insane not to and while they are power hungry, the Clintons are not crazy. However, they do want me to believe that Obama is Ronald Reagan, Jr., a claim that only a moron would consider as truth.

Like many of you, I am unclear about Obama’s policies. The cynic in me is unsure that, if elected, he will be able to “change Washington.” But as he so eloquently says, he offers the “hope of change.” His hope is a call for involvement, not an order to get in line. He respects the intelligence of the people he speaks to. He does not talk down to people or try to trick them. His message is not one of arrogance. His actions are not filled with arrogance. Despite poll-driven media predictions of primary & caucus wins, Obama has not acted like the anointed one. He has identified himself as the “Agent of Change” and “Bringer of Hope,” but he comes off as the Everyman (much to Edwards’ chagrin). The greater the Clintons’ arrogance, the more the Everyman Obama becomes. One of our great national narratives is that the Everyman triumphs over the Bully. Arrogance is the weapon of the Bully and, in this case, it seems to be the Clintons’ biggest fuck up.

(Note that Senator Clinton’s success in New Hampshire came after she both ditched the arrogance and became a sympathetic figure with her brief cry in a town diner. The media’s pre-vote crowning of Obama as King helped switch the roles of Anointed and Everyman. Given President Bill’s nasty involvement, it might be too late for Miss Hillary to recapture her role as underdog. But for a moment climbing off the Bully pulpit worked.)

2 comments:

Spiller said...

Scott,

I thought that Hillary criticized Obama at the SC debate for saying that the Republican Party was the "party of ideas" for the past 10-15 years (which does not include the Reagan years). I think that numerous commentators have conflated that remark with Obama's other remark about Reagan changing the trajectory of the country in a way that Nixon and Clinton had not.

I agree that Bill went over board with his remarks and he has been rightly taken to task. I think that there may be other plausible explanations for his ham handed remark that are not nearly so sinister.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Clinton twisting Obama's Reagan remark is insulting to thinking people. It's as if she's running for president of her middle-school. The sad part is that some people are that stupid and/or press soundbites can distort such comments. It's up to her and the others to try to keep the bar a little higher.

Jed