Sunday, May 11, 2008

End of an era

The Clintons have long been transformational figures in American politics. William Jefferson Clinton was born of tremendous talent and intelligence and overcame tremendous obstacles in his life and eventual rise to power. Bill Clinton's story sounds like Huey Long with a twist. Run for statewide office, run for governor, then run for President. Don't get assassinated.

What Bill will be known for is winning. Beating George Bush Sr. in 1992 was the last time a challenger defeated a sitting president. He is also known for, and villified in certain circles in the base of the democratic party. Clinton made the Democrats the party of free trade, much to the chagrin of union backers who favor protection of homegrown industry. Gave most favored nation status to China when there were serious questions about product safety and most importantly human rights violations.

A few years after this landmark policy, Wal-Mart is the world's largest corporate organization and largest private employer in the United States. The vast majority of Wal-Mart's products are made in China and sold in the US. Hillary formerly sat on the board of the corporate giant.

The Clinton years will be remembered for balancing the budget and the unprecedented run of growth for the American economy.

Hillary was the presumptive nominee in 2004 and in 2008. By not making an announcement and by raising money in 2004, Hillary took the wind out of the sails of everyone else who was ready to run against George W. She would have been a much better candidate than John Kerry or Howard Dean. She would have shored up a key demographic that abandoned the democratic party in favor of the republican incumbent. That demographic is women.

"Soccer moms" were now "security moms" who didn't trust Kerry over Bush. I think that women would have been more likely to trust one of their own gender over Bush, but it is mere speculation at this point. Hillary chose not to get her hands dirty in 2004 and thought that she would walk to the White House when it opened up in 2008.

But it didn't happen. Her miscalculation 4 years ago cost us all dearly.

Have the Clinton's forgotten the reasons why they built their political machinery?

Is it just about winning? Or is it about standing up for a world view? The speculation now focuses on whether Hillary will accept that she is going to lose the nomination or try to win with superdelegates, and the delegates from the states of Florida and Michigan. The rules were agreed upon at the outset of the contest, Hillary seems poised to move the goal post. Or perhaps more appropriately she is playing Lucy to Barack Obama's Charlie Brown, convincing him to kick the ball through the uprights only to have the ball yanked away at the last possible second.

I hope that the Clinton's remember that they have a legacy to defend. A very popular and effective presidency that offers stark contrast to our current economic and geopolitical situation.

Hillary's real problem is that she doesn't have the talent that Bill had, and definitely doesn't have the talent (or consistency) that Obama has. She has risen further than any other first lady, she also appears to be the only first lady that ever had that kind of ambition for elected office. She has been tacitly accepting help from Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos," encouraging GOP faithful to vote Hillary in the primaries in order to prolong the contest. I wouldn't normally give Limbaugh this kind of credit, but given how well Hillary is doing with white voters with less than a college education (which is not a typical democratic constituency) it is worth noting that Limbaugh's key demographic are uneducated white people who are hyperactive and impressionable politically.

I would have never thought that there would be this kind of opportunity for the GOP. The democrats have let McCain into the race by not having this contest decided already.

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