Thursday, June 5, 2008

Where Did She Go Wrong?

A lousy campaign predicated on her insurmountability. I won't say "inevitability" because that word has connotations that I don't believe apply. I don't believe that HRC felt entitled. Her dogged fight seems to suggest otherwise. I do believe that she thought she was insurmountable because of the fundraising and powerbroking implications of the Clintons' position in the Party. That's a strategic assessment, not a Marie Antoinette grasp of entitlement.

A tack to the Right. It wasn't just on foreign affairs and defense policy. It was also on choice and gay rights issues. Clinton did not have the courage even to exert leadership on critical constitutional issues. Granted, the Democrats' legacy position should have been pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, and would have been far more risky to stake out than the Republicans' legacy "contra" views. But that doesn't excuse Democrats from stepping up. She didn't. Ever.

A stubborn refusal to come clean on a bad Iraq war vote. It really ticked me off that she would not admit to having erred on that decision. It ticked me off worse that she and the rest of the Democrats erred--allowed themselves to be railroaded by the Fear Factor. There, I think, was core character and judgmental weakness on her part and on the part of all who went that way. There simply was not suffient evidence.

A willingness to play racism. Linking Obama to Al Sharpton was a significant error not because it was stupid and racist, but because it lifted the lid and showed the inside of the can, worms and all. This was an utter capitulation to the worst power lust. It was Bill's capitulation, but it reflected on her.

A tin ear. She's had this reputation for many years -- the cookies comment comes to mind. The business about RFK's assassination belongs in this category, in my judgment. I don't believe for a minute that she meant what the Right suggests. I think she was thinking out loud, and what came up, came out. Public officials have to have a better filter than that.

A media network hostile to HRC from Day One. Matthews was there then and he was there now, along with Fox and the rest. The Clintons have attracted a level of hostility not seen since FDR. I've never understood why, when the GOP has given us so many more worthy options. Suffice to say that from Candy Crowley's bitchy innuendo to Chris's outright misogyny and Wolf Blitzer's predictable negative spin, she's had an up-hill climb that no other candidate has faced in this contest. Some substantial part of this hostility is pure sexism.

Bad Bill's legacy (Good Bill's legacy never showed up. We didn't hear much about reigned in spending, a balanced budget, a short, won war, and a long reign of peace. We did hear about Monica, about the ghost of Bill in the Hillary White House, and so on.

Voter sexism. Sure. How much is hard to say, but judging from the boyz in the mainstream media--and some of the girlz too--sexism is alive and well. Missteps and flaws that would have been overlooked in men have been magnified and hammered into our consciousnesses because they are part of Hillary. Not to mention gratuitously sexist and ageist volleys lobbed at her, visually and in words.

But of all the factors that sunk HRC, the most significant, the sine qua non, was that she faced a brilliant, once-in-a-generation competitor. Obama has the magic. In addition, his campaign was right on every point, from its fundraising to its delegate to its tonal strategy. Except for his occasional missteps --campaigning in South Carolina with a professional gay hater -- and despite the spectre of Jeremiah Wright, he has almost always appealed to what we are capable of being at our best. His careful inclusion of us, over against her "me, I, me" rhetoric enlisted us at a deeper level in deciding our future. It will create a deeper buy-in, as well.