Monday, April 21, 2008

TPH: The Next (Last? HA!) Do-or-Die for Sen. Clinton

The Political Hoedown
Pennsylvania; the DNC?!; Immigration Follow-up

It's the elephant in the room, the Pennsylvania Primary, and the media is deciding to ignore it. Look to Indiana, to North Carolina, they say, predicting a Hillary win already. And that sort of prediction when the race has been anything but predictable shows someone's got stones.

Or is an idiot.

The logic goes, unless Hillary loses, any win by her will be enough to see her through to Indiana and North Carolina, the next set of "decision" states, so why bother? Polling data puts her ahead by a little to a fair amount, depending on your source, and it stands to reason that she's going to come out of April 22nd with another win in her column, if few actual delegates. Because let's be honest: she's not winning more delegates than Obama at this point.

He's got the "competitive" delegate lead, and is doing better with PLEOs/Superdelegates than her, though she still retains a slim lead on that count. Howard Dean wants this over as quickly as possible, saying by July it should be done - by the end of June, even. There are a few extant Superdelegates, no doubt, who honestly haven't come to a conclusion yet. They are waiting to see what Clinton can do and if Obama can smooth over the last few weeks' worth of negative press.

A telling indicator that Obama is in trouble - or that his staffers worry he might he - would be his use of attack ads and the dredging of the sniper story. He did declare at the last debate that the sniper story - and all "politics" of that kind - should be off limits. Clean campaigning, right? Then why are some of his campaign staffers holding media conference calls and bringing Hillary's tarmac dash back up again and again? There was a feisty back and forth between Clinton's and Obama's chief strategists yesterday (Sunday) that shows a no-holds-barred approach to Pennsylvania's primary, not to mention the remainder of the campaign (however long that might be, and the media certainly wants it to drag on as we've seen with their eagle eye already on the next contests, eagerly anticipating the overtime checks, personal interest stories, political infighting, garish graphics, secured employment).

Maybe it's smarter for the two candidates to let their proxies duke it out, dig up the dirt.

* * *

That sort of segues into the candidates being above it all, elites if you will in the political process. But does that make them elitist?

Hillary has made a big stink about Obama's "bitter" remark about Pennsylvanians ("...they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them..."). Anything said on the campaign trail, whether at a rally in front of thousands or a private fundraiser with a few dozen people, is fair game. Certainly Obama gets that now, much to his chagrin.

It's not rightly "fair" of Hillary to try and judge someone else an elitist when she is Hillary Freaking Clinton, but when has fair really entered into politics in our nation's history? She is rightly taking advantage of his political weakness, jumping like a badly coiffed lion on his confused zebra. But, like with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright debacle, he's not really impacted all that much. His numbers have dipped a little, perhaps, but not noticeably. It's sort of a moot point for these two to argue the "elitist" card, because not only are both part of the very top of earners in the country, not only are they some of the very few elected to national politics, but they are presidential candidates. Mark Helprin of TIME magazine said it right when he claimed you can't get more elite than that.

It's quite common for Democrats to label others elites, or out-of-touch with reality. Certainly Hollywood liberals have never met a better-than-you comment they haven't wanted to hurl the Republicans' way. We recognize the irony, that people who demand eight-digit salaries (or maybe even just seven...) for a few months' work are claiming they have a finger on the pulse of the common man and are more in the trenches than Those Right-Wing Politicians In Washington(!!). I think we'd all be a lot better of if the word "elite" never came up in politics unless someone was mocking gamer speak ("Hillary claims I am l33t, but it's time she pwned up to reality...." The kids will get it, old people, don't worry).

However, Hillary's attack-dog stance on his "bitter" comments isn't necessarily a wrong one. It shows an incredible lack of thought? intelligence? tact? on Barack's part to even think what he said, much less say it. And it speaks to a personal ideology that, while not elite to a degree greater or less than any politician, is condescending to a social viewpoint. Certainly Obama is not a gun-toting, Bible-thumper; the culture is not his, per se.

There is a gap between him and those who do fall into that category, and I can imagine this will be highlighted in the fall if he's the candidate. Posing with a firearm or carrying a Bible in his briefcase won't necessarily help him. After all, he still faces John McCain who, if not a born-again Pentecostal, certainly knows his way around a weapon and has what spin artists call a "quiet faith." Fake machismo or religiosity will win him more scorn and late night talk show punchlines than votes. In fact, I don't think religion will play the part in this fall's election regardless of the candidate, simply because McCain isn't going to play that card. Barring shameful discussions of Obama's name and its Islamic implications, expect this race to ignore to a large degree the religious groups that made the last eight years' worth of elections some of the most frustrating in our nation's history.

(I speak as an individual happy there is a separation of church and state, full of a hearty dislike of nasty preachers on both sides who feel God chooses their politicians, when really everyone is trying to help their fellow man, just with different mechanisms. The sooner we let our faiths guide our morality and choices, and not fuel attack ads and unfair pigeon-holing the better.)

But going back to Obama and the "common man." He regrets the wording his chose, but does not apologize, when asked about the "bitter" comment. This circles around to the condescension mentioned above. He stands by the idea of his words, but realizes he could've said it without making people understand the derogatory nature of the remark. There is a semantics war being fought here; no apology, no "I'm sorry." Those denote a sense of remorse about the act, whereas regretting something doesn't mean you were wrong, just that you wish you'd done something differently. Unapologetic regret is possible, and alive in the Obama campaign.

* * *

I thought I'd post something about immigration, seeing as the recent special edition of the Political Hoedown garnered actual discussion on-site after the posting. But to use this platform for a retort, buried under election twaddle, feels unfair. Expect a fuller response later, in which I address points raised, NEW points and old points in sequined jumpsuits.

* * *

Let's not forget that I've addressed the Rev. Jeremiah Wright concern, and the religion question in general. Some of you readers may've been laying low when I tossed that sucker up.

* * *

I wrote a little blurb about McCain not being negatively affected these days in the polls while Obama and Hillarious duke it out. There's also a little about more about conservatives, him and how he might frame himself to be viewed as not Bush's third term.


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