Apr 28, 2008

April 23, 2008: Take the Low Road Home, Voting Its Tribe, Clawing Her Way Back Into Contention

“Oh! Ye’ll take the high road
I’ll take the low road
And I’ll be in the White House afore ye”

--Variation of “Bonnie Banks O’loch Lomond” (You Take the High Road) (1)

The New York Times, in an editorial today entitled The Low Road to Victory, had this to say about Hillary’s performance in Pennsylvania. “The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.” Pointing out that she did not win by margins necessary to materially alter the “calculus of the Democratic Race”, the editors of the Times concluded that “it is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election” (2) This is from a publication that endorsed her over rival Obama during the New York primary.

It was, by all accounts, an ugly victory. Obama, outspending her 2-to-1, and out organizing her was fast closing the gap when she seized upon his unfortunate remarks in San Francisco and raised a hue and cry in defense of the much maligned blue collar Democrat. Dodging questions about her role defending unions while on the board of Wal-Mart, she was instead filmed somewhere outside Indianapolis playing the barfly. But it got uglier. According to the Times “on the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad—torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook—evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned” (2) The Times then proceeded to criticize both candidates for failing to elevate the tone and substance of the debate calling Obama to task for his Annie Oakley references and imploring each to give American voters a nuanced discussion about how each would deal with terrorism, the economy, the wars and civil liberties.

It is unlikely this is going to happen any time soon. The Times opined that the “voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work.”(2) The editors got it right on the first two points but were clearly wrong in concluding that it does not work. One can complain about the politics of Karl Rove, one can deplore the impact such corrosive tactics have on the electorate, but to conclude that such tactics do not work is to materially misunderstand the politics of the Generation of Swine. Turning off the electorate, you see, is precisely the point. By reducing the campaign to a miserable mud-slinging, hog-calling, trash-talking contest it is guaranteed to render the process intolerably repulsive. This means that the election will then be decided by only the most deranged political junkie or single issue fanatic who is either an incorrigible masochist or hopelessly venal. The name of the game is to drive down voter participation to such levels that the process is reduced to a simple contest between your base of support and mine. Elections are then not decided by issues and qualifications but by GOTV or get-out-the-vote efforts in which each party will try to gin up its political base and get more of that base to the polls. It is a miserable calculus, one in which old battles are continually re-fought, is devoid of meaning and incapable of inspiration. It is, by such calculations, that John Kerry felt compelled in 2004 to re-fight the Vietnam war.

It also means, under such conditions, that the country is more likely to vote its tribe. So after presenting us, as the New York Times so eloquently put it, “a meaner, more vacuous, more desperate” campaign, America voted once again its tribe. Pennsylvania is the second oldest state in the Union. This favored the champion of the “Boomers” Hillary Clinton. Accordingly she captured “six in 10 senior voters” and a majority of all voters over 40. In addition the election broke once again along racial lines with Clinton winning 65 percent of white women and 55 percent of white men, less than in Ohio, but a marked reversal from Wisconsin. Obama, likewise carried over 90 percent of black support. (3)

By using such tactics Hillary Clinton has managed to scratch and claw her way back into contention slicing and dicing Obama until she has, at last, assassinated hope itself.



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