Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Clintonism R.I.P.

Hillary Clinton's defeat in Iowa, with - if recent polling data is to be believed - another soon to come in New Hampshire (as even Sen. Hillary Clinton appears ready to acknowledge), is a pleasant non-surprise to those of us who looked upon the Clinton era with equal parts loathing and disgust. But Hillary's impending defeat in the Granite State portends more than the undoing of a carefully stage-crafted campaign. Surely, we are witnessing a sea change in the fortunes of America's (former) premier political couple.

Matt Bai of the
New York Times Magazine correctly divined the likelihood of Ms. Clinton being able to launch a viable run for the White House when he correlated her success with public perception of her husband's record as president. In his piece, Bai points out how the nascent split between Bill Clinton's triangulating centrism and the more confrontational tactics embraced by the netroots endangered Hillary's campaign almost from the start.

Even before they knew for sure that she was running for the presidency, Hillary Clinton's top aides had to figure out how best to handle the growing tumult inside their own party. As a senator, Clinton had been, if anything, more centrist than her husband... There is no reason to think such stances on the issues didn't accurately reflect Hillary's convictions, but they had the added bonus of positioning her as eminently moderate and "electable" — both in New York State, where she won 67 percent of the vote in her 2006 re-election, and in the rest of the country.

The party, however, seemed to be moving in a different direction. Liberal activists online and in the states, in the wake of [Howard] Dean's losing campaign, were noisily demanding more confrontation and less Clintonian compromise from their Washington leaders... Some Clinton supporters in Washington thought they could see an ominous train coming down the track, and they wondered if the candidate didn't need to get some distance between herself and her husband's legacy, to position herself as a more partisan Democrat before it was too late.

Mark Penn steadfastly disagreed. Penn, who was Bill Clinton's chief pollster during the '90s, also emerged as Hillary's most influential strategist. Penn had argued for years, going back to the Clinton White House, that Democrats won when they occupied the bipartisan, common-sense center of the political spectrum. And even in a primary campaign, Penn said he believed that Democrats had such personal loyalty toward the Clintons that they would forgive a few ideological differences they might have with the senator, especially if they thought those differences made her palatable to a wide swath of independent voters. When I suggested to Penn, back in 2005, that there might be a strong backlash emerging against the notion of Clintonism, he waved me away. "Strong backlash?" Penn scoffed, reminding me that the former president had a 70 percent approval rating in the country as a whole. "In this environment, that is a notion I would have to laugh at."

I suspect that Mark Penn finds little about which to laugh these days. While the netrooots have not been able to deliver on much politically - as they have shown themselves to be more of a threat to Democrats whom they deem to be insufficiently progressive than to Republicans - the "money guys, bloggers, MoveOn.org" coalesced after the 2000 election to exert an outsized influence on Democrat politics, causing the party to list more to port than in the 1990s. Hillary's electoral misfortunes represent the further cresting of a tsunami of revolt against the Democratic establishment.

To be sure, a similar sort of tidal wave is roiling in microcosm amongst black Democrats. With a preponderance of the African American political elite - many of whom sensing a debt of gratitude more so to the Clintons than to the black proletariat - placing their hopes on Sen. Clinton (to include Reps. John Lewis and Sheila Jackson Lee, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson's wife Jacqueline), it has been interesting to watch black leadership struggle to maintain credibility with the petit bourgeois who have largely been endorsing Barack Obama. (H/T: The Wall Street Journal)
In some black organizations and churches there are signs that Mr. Obama's surge is creating divisions between political leaders and their supporters. Lucille Whipper, a Clinton supporter and current leader of South Carolina's Woman's Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention, said she worried that it will be "difficult for me to keep the influence I have and not affect my validity in all the other areas that I work. We have to be very careful that we don't develop in the minds of others that we are not for youth, we are not for change."
With the Clinton campaign in tatters, it is evident that we are witnessing the continued slide of civil rights leaders into further irrelevance and that we are in the post-Clinton era. While we have yet to unwind all of the nettlesomeness of the Clinton presidency, we are at sufficient remove for all but the most irretrievably biased observers to conclude that Bill Clinton's presidency was little more than history standing still. Sadly, history did anything but stand still while Clinton played a southern-fried Nero and the world burned. Perhaps Hillary's worst miscalculation was to assume that her "experience" as Bill's Lady Macbeth would come without the price of guilt by association.

1 comment:

Op Ed said...

I Got What America Needs Right Here
By Jimmy Carter
January 9, 2008 |
The Onion Issue 44•02
Sometimes I'm a little stupid, maybe, a little slow in the head, so I'm wondering if you can help me get something straight. Maybe you can help me understand one fucking thing right now, America, and explain to me what in the Christ is going on here. 'Cause, unless I'm missing something, this country is in the middle of a motherfucking shitstorm, and I have no fucking idea what you're gonna do to get out of it. I mean, are you seriously considering voting for one of these shitbags you got here in '08? Fat fucking chance.
Way I see it, America needs a president who's gonna somehow un-royally screw up the Middle East, do some serious cleaning up after you dropped your pants and took a steaming dump all over the fucking environment, and—boom!—restore dignity, honor, and all that shit to these United States.
See, I got solutions to all your problems—I got 'em right here in my big, hairy ballsack.
You better get down on your hands and knees and kiss Jimmy Carter's rosy-red Georgia-peach-picking ass and beg me to run your fucking country again, because there's no way I'm ever gonna come to you fuck-knobs and politely ask you if I might please be a presidential candidate in your precious fuckin' election. So you can just bite my cock. I've had it with you jerkoffs and your jerkoff candidates.
You actually seem to think one a' these assholes is gonna prance in and wave a magic wand and make everything all nice again. Look at you, sitting there like a common fucking schnook and eating all their bull about bi-fucking-partisanship, and how they have all the goddamn answers. Let me tell you something: These fags are dogshit compared to Jimmy fucking Carter, all right? I was arbitrating Mideast crises when this bunch was still sucking on their mamas' titties.
But who comes to me, huh? Fucking nobody. Why ask old Jimmy anything? What the fuck could he know about peace in the Middle East? It's not like he fucking won the Nobel Peace Prize for that shit. You myopic pricks. Back in '79, I sat Sadat and Begin right down and made those two dicklicks shake hands. It was beautiful—I had all the pieces lined up and I smiled and waved in my best fucking suit and tie right there on TV. And what do you do, you pieces of shit? You screw the whole goddamn pooch.
Oh, what's that I hear? The weather's all screwy? You got a global warming problem? Boo-fucking-hoo! I was telling you morons to turn off your lights and unplug all your shit at night to conserve energy in 19-fuckin'-75, for chrissake. Gee, I wonder what woulda happened if we'd all switched to solar power like I fucking did back when we had a fucking chance to do something about it. Think we'd still be sucking Saudi Arabia's dick like a five-dollar whore? I sure as fuck didn't get no fancy Oscar for that little spiel, though, did I? No. But Al Gore, that cum-sucking pig, steals the shit from me and now he's the greatest thing since Jesus Christ made a fucking sandwich.
Well, he can lick my asshole right after George W. Bush, that fuck.
You want compassion? Somebody who's looking out for the little guy? Why don't you take a look at Jimmy Carter, 'cause unlike, oh, every motherfucking candidate out there, he spent the last fucking quarter-century building houses for the homeless. And what does he get for it? A fucking hernia. Some fucking gratitude, you selfish twats. You talk to me about compassion? I'll shove a crucifix so far up the Democrats' asses they'll be asking me to buy them dinner and kiss them good night.
Funny thing about me: I actually fucking know shit! Not like these goombas trying to weasel their way into the White House. I practically wrote the book on collapsing bridges, inflation, and the working poor, fuck-o. I even got a degree in nuclear engineering or some shit. You know how easy I could swoop down right now like a guardian angel and solve all your fucking problems? Snap. Bam. Do it in my fucking sleep. Just fucking try me.
So you want me to run for president again? Yeah, sure, absolutely, I'll do it. I'd be honored to do it—with my fucking dick in your mouth, you worthless scumbags.
You had your chance with Jimmy Carter, and you fucking blew it. So get fucked. Fucking country.