What (Who?) Hillary is fighting for

I was a huge Clinton fan in the 90s. And I was pumped to think that Hillary Clinton might be the first female President, back in 2000, when she ran for the Senate and it was clear she eventually would run for the Presidency. But then came Barack Obama, and I saw in him a far better potential President. Would I have been upset had Hillary been the nominee? A little bit, yes, but of course I would have voted for her in the general election.

There were a number of moments during the race where Hillary’s campaign was, in my opinion, distasteful. These moments will come back to haunt the Democrats as the Republicans begin to use Hillary’s own words against Barack. That said, you can’t blame Hillary for fighting through until the last Primary, she’s a fighter, and that’s one of her qualities. And the length of the Primary Season was, in my opinion, a huge win for the Democratic Party as a whole, with more States and voters energized than ever before.

There is a difference, however, between fighting until the end and staying on the field after you’ve lost a close game.

Last night, Hillary crossed a line, and it was inexcusable. On the night that Obama clinches the nomination, she refuses to concede. She brings up a number of bogus arguments that undermine Obama’s victory, even though it is a clear victory by the rules, even after the rules have been modified in her favor. She gives a speech that, heard in isolation, makes it sound like she won (did you notice her speech was in a basement, where the audience had no cell phone reception and no TV screens?). She insinuates that you have to negotiate with her to get her supporters.

If you’re a Hillary Clinton supporter, Hillary now believes she owns you. She believes that, for Obama to get your vote and your support, he has to negotiate with her. I find that incredibly arrogant and unbecoming of a true leader. More importantly, on the issues: Hillary will not be President in 2008. So the only realistic consequence of her actions, as of last night, is to weaken Obama and increase the chance of a McCain win. If you actually care about women’s rights and more generally a Democratic Party agenda, continuing to support Hillary now is equivalent to playing for the other team. So, what is Hillary actually fighting for? I’m not sure, but in my opinion, as of last night, it’s certainly not for the issues that matter in this election.

UPDATE: Hillary Rosen, a strong Hillary supporter, takes an incredibly honorable position. I do not know if, in her place, I would be as strong and decent, but I like to think I would be.

22 thoughts on “What (Who?) Hillary is fighting for

  1. Ben,

    (I am a supporter of Senator Obama and voted for him in the MA primary.)

    Your reaction is quite in line with the pundits that I watched on television last night and read in the papers this morning…

    …but I didn’t see it at all. I found Hillary’s speech to be 90% concessionary (is that a word?). And the other 10% seemed to me to be a nod to all of her ardent supporters who would feel betrayed if she immediately conceded then and there.

    Her speech to me felt like a retrospective on the primary process. She talked a lot about party unity and about electing a Democrat. I thought it was a great speech actually, and I was floored when the entire rest of the world seemed to share your reaction to it.

    I can see how her repeated mentions of the 18 million people who voted for her could be seen as distasteful, and I don’t dispute that she was using it as a bargaining chip…. but that didn’t bother me and I think it’s to be expected. She’s a fighter through and through (as she likes to say), and if she didn’t win the nomination then she’s going to continue to fight for her constituency, and I don’t think it’s offensive to view the 18 million people that voted for her as her constituency. Those people (and there are a lot of them!) effectively said that she spoke most closely for them, and she’s saying that she wants to ensure that they are continued to be spoken for.

    I expect that she’ll formally concede within a week… perhaps within days. I’m not sure how I feel about her for a VP position, I think I’d prefer someone else. That said, I think she would do a fantastic job as the VP, particularly acting as a legislative whip from the White House side of the fence.

    Lee

  2. Ben,

    (I am a supporter of Senator Obama and voted for him in the MA primary.)

    Your reaction is quite in line with the pundits that I watched on television last night and read in the papers this morning…

    …but I didn’t see it at all. I found Hillary’s speech to be 90% concessionary (is that a word?). And the other 10% seemed to me to be a nod to all of her ardent supporters who would feel betrayed if she immediately conceded then and there.

    Her speech to me felt like a retrospective on the primary process. She talked a lot about party unity and about electing a Democrat. I thought it was a great speech actually, and I was floored when the entire rest of the world seemed to share your reaction to it.

    I can see how her repeated mentions of the 18 million people who voted for her could be seen as distasteful, and I don’t dispute that she was using it as a bargaining chip…. but that didn’t bother me and I think it’s to be expected. She’s a fighter through and through (as she likes to say), and if she didn’t win the nomination then she’s going to continue to fight for her constituency, and I don’t think it’s offensive to view the 18 million people that voted for her as her constituency. Those people (and there are a lot of them!) effectively said that she spoke most closely for them, and she’s saying that she wants to ensure that they are continued to be spoken for.

    I expect that she’ll formally concede within a week… perhaps within days. I’m not sure how I feel about her for a VP position, I think I’d prefer someone else. That said, I think she would do a fantastic job as the VP, particularly acting as a legislative whip from the White House side of the fence.

    Lee

  3. Hi Lee,

    90%? I actually think it was 0% concession. If you listen to that speech, it could have been given entirely by a winner (she congratulates Obama for the race he “ran”, not the race he won.) The only thing that implies that she didn’t win is that last minute, where she acknowledges her options are limited but in the end hasn’t made a choice.

    If she were fighting against a Republican whose power she’s trying to limit, ok. But this is a fellow Democrat, for whom she said she would “campaign her heart out.” Instead, she’s trying to use her supporters as bargaining chips.

  4. Hi Lee,

    90%? I actually think it was 0% concession. If you listen to that speech, it could have been given entirely by a winner (she congratulates Obama for the race he “ran”, not the race he won.) The only thing that implies that she didn’t win is that last minute, where she acknowledges her options are limited but in the end hasn’t made a choice.

    If she were fighting against a Republican whose power she’s trying to limit, ok. But this is a fellow Democrat, for whom she said she would “campaign her heart out.” Instead, she’s trying to use her supporters as bargaining chips.

  5. Great post, you said what I wanted to say, only less angrily. =)

    I have to wonder, what exactly does she think she can accomplish at this point??

  6. Great post, you said what I wanted to say, only less angrily. =)

    I have to wonder, what exactly does she think she can accomplish at this point??

  7. I guess I’ll have to agree to disagree with lots of other people.

    I’ve since talked to more people about it, and found a few like-minded people (also Obama supporters) who were (and are) equally baffled with the overwhelming reaction to Hillary’s speech.

    Congratulating Obama for the race he “won” would have been a concession; congratulating him for the race he ran was a fair-handed compliment that came short of concession. That’s how I felt about the entire speech, but — aside from the comment on receiving the most votes of any Democrat ever — I found almost none of the speech to be uncalled for, out of place, or offensive.

    In fact, I’m starting to be a bit bothered by the analysis I’m reading which says that it’s improper for Sen. Clinton to acknowledge the fact that about as many people voted for her as for Senator Obama. Those votes were not accidents: those people preferred her, for one reason or another. If we want to achieve true party unity, we need to acknowledge that and act on it, rather than disparaging attempts to do that as dealing with “bargaining chips”.

    Lee

  8. I guess I’ll have to agree to disagree with lots of other people.

    I’ve since talked to more people about it, and found a few like-minded people (also Obama supporters) who were (and are) equally baffled with the overwhelming reaction to Hillary’s speech.

    Congratulating Obama for the race he “won” would have been a concession; congratulating him for the race he ran was a fair-handed compliment that came short of concession. That’s how I felt about the entire speech, but — aside from the comment on receiving the most votes of any Democrat ever — I found almost none of the speech to be uncalled for, out of place, or offensive.

    In fact, I’m starting to be a bit bothered by the analysis I’m reading which says that it’s improper for Sen. Clinton to acknowledge the fact that about as many people voted for her as for Senator Obama. Those votes were not accidents: those people preferred her, for one reason or another. If we want to achieve true party unity, we need to acknowledge that and act on it, rather than disparaging attempts to do that as dealing with “bargaining chips”.

    Lee

  9. Lee,

    So I think Hillary is now doing the right thing by conceding on Saturday, and though the difference may seem subtle between the two speeches, I think it’s enormous when it comes to uniting the party. So good for her.

  10. Lee,

    So I think Hillary is now doing the right thing by conceding on Saturday, and though the difference may seem subtle between the two speeches, I think it’s enormous when it comes to uniting the party. So good for her.

  11. Ben,

    I can’t help but wonder at this point whether, from her perspective, she intended to concede later in the week all along (as I heard her Tues. night speech) or whether her decision was spurred by the general outrage of many people based on the prevailing reaction to her speech. I’m sure we’ll never know.

    Anyway, all’s well that ends* well.

    Lee

    * geez I hope this ends well (in November)

  12. Ben,

    I can’t help but wonder at this point whether, from her perspective, she intended to concede later in the week all along (as I heard her Tues. night speech) or whether her decision was spurred by the general outrage of many people based on the prevailing reaction to her speech. I’m sure we’ll never know.

    Anyway, all’s well that ends* well.

    Lee

    * geez I hope this ends well (in November)

  13. I agree with one thing you touched on at the end that she may be purposefully doing this to weaken Obama. I think it’s quite clear that Hillary has been planning for some time to be president and her window is about to close. She has to have McCain win so that she can run in 2008, since an Obama presidency guarantees that she can’t run until 2012.

    Hillary is in her 60s now and would be pushing 70 by 2012. McCain as a man is getting crap for being in his 70s now. I’m sorry I think the general public would be even crueler to a woman that age. Besides, the current race is going be Nixon-JFK all over again and much as I’d like to believe we have a sophisticated electorate, the young, good looking nominee with excellent delivery is going to beat the skin cancer scarred, crotchety old white guy.

  14. I agree with one thing you touched on at the end that she may be purposefully doing this to weaken Obama. I think it’s quite clear that Hillary has been planning for some time to be president and her window is about to close. She has to have McCain win so that she can run in 2008, since an Obama presidency guarantees that she can’t run until 2012.

    Hillary is in her 60s now and would be pushing 70 by 2012. McCain as a man is getting crap for being in his 70s now. I’m sorry I think the general public would be even crueler to a woman that age. Besides, the current race is going be Nixon-JFK all over again and much as I’d like to believe we have a sophisticated electorate, the young, good looking nominee with excellent delivery is going to beat the skin cancer scarred, crotchety old white guy.

  15. Ben, you have to understand something about campaigns. For the same reason you felt the need to write this passionate entry, Hillary could not have and should not have conceded Tuesday. People fall in love with candidates. This was one of the closest campaigns in modern history (no matter whose numbers you use). There was no doubt Sen. Clinton was going to throw her full support behind Sen. Obama, but had she done so on Tuesday I believe it would have irreparably fractured the millions her supported her and thus the Democratic party. Those supporters were not willing just yet to let go of their hopes, of their dreams of equality and of the feeling that anything is possible. While no doubt there are some Clinton supporters that will not support Obama in November (whether for legitemate political differences or personal beliefs), but that number will be far less because of the way Sen. Clinton handled her concession. She has done everything possible to unite her supporters behind Sen. Obama. I am thankful for her foresight and it makes me proud to be a Democrat.

  16. Ben, you have to understand something about campaigns. For the same reason you felt the need to write this passionate entry, Hillary could not have and should not have conceded Tuesday. People fall in love with candidates. This was one of the closest campaigns in modern history (no matter whose numbers you use). There was no doubt Sen. Clinton was going to throw her full support behind Sen. Obama, but had she done so on Tuesday I believe it would have irreparably fractured the millions her supported her and thus the Democratic party. Those supporters were not willing just yet to let go of their hopes, of their dreams of equality and of the feeling that anything is possible. While no doubt there are some Clinton supporters that will not support Obama in November (whether for legitemate political differences or personal beliefs), but that number will be far less because of the way Sen. Clinton handled her concession. She has done everything possible to unite her supporters behind Sen. Obama. I am thankful for her foresight and it makes me proud to be a Democrat.

  17. Mike,

    You might well be right about the outcome of rallying Clinton supporters behind Obama. That said, I’m not sure that it was pre-meditated: I think Clinton really had trouble letting go.

    But it doesn’t matter much now. Her speech on Saturday was very, very good.

  18. Mike,

    You might well be right about the outcome of rallying Clinton supporters behind Obama. That said, I’m not sure that it was pre-meditated: I think Clinton really had trouble letting go.

    But it doesn’t matter much now. Her speech on Saturday was very, very good.

  19. Ben,

    Had you seen a different outcome at the RBC meeting last week, you might have seen an earlier concession. But it was pretty clear at that point that unity was not achieved. The “compromise” ended up being a kick to a downed campaign. It was pretty well decided then and there, an immediate concession would have had devastating party consequences. Did she have trouble letting go? I don’t know that I would say that as much as I would say she needed a moment to exhale after enduring 18 months of pouring her heart and soul into the most important thing she’d ever done.

    I agree with you thought. We put it behind us an move forward united.

  20. Ben,

    Had you seen a different outcome at the RBC meeting last week, you might have seen an earlier concession. But it was pretty clear at that point that unity was not achieved. The “compromise” ended up being a kick to a downed campaign. It was pretty well decided then and there, an immediate concession would have had devastating party consequences. Did she have trouble letting go? I don’t know that I would say that as much as I would say she needed a moment to exhale after enduring 18 months of pouring her heart and soul into the most important thing she’d ever done.

    I agree with you thought. We put it behind us an move forward united.

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