First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Hillary's No-Lose Strategy
I've heard commentators go back and forth on the question of why Hillary Clinton doesn't do what's best for the Democratic Party and get behind Obama's candidacy.
Their primary argument is that even if Hillary gets the nomination through the votes of the superdelegates, it would be a nomination not worth having.
Why? Because in the African-American community, it will be seen as a theft. Obama got more votes, more delegates, and Hillary stole it from him through backroom deals.
A few black voters would certainly vote for McCain. A lot more would stay home rather than vote for Hillary. And in a close election, no Democrat can win the presidency without a strong turnout of the black vote, with 90 percent of that vote going to the Democratic candidate.
In state after state, that black vote is the margin of victory for Democrats. Cut the number of black voters by a mere ten percent, and then give the Democrat only 85 percent of the total black vote, and suddenly it's an electoral college landslide. For the Republican.
Some Democrats can't believe that this would happen, but why shouldn't it? It's not as if the Democrats have a great fund of credibility in terms of serving the interests of the African-American community. They've taken the black vote for granted for so many years, doing next to nothing for black voters but expecting them to show up and vote anyway, that African-Americans can be forgiven for watching this year's nomination process with a great deal of skepticism.
If the Democratic Party had actually served the black community well, then it would be reasonable to expect black voters to take it on faith that the nomination process is honest and if Barack Obama doesn't get the nomination, then it will still be in their best interest to vote for the Democrat.
But black voters aren't stupid. They know that for all that talk of Bill Clinton as the first black president, the reasoning behind that statement was doubly insulting: First, because the attributes that made him supposedly "black" are an offense to every black man in America; and, second, because Clinton is a white man, for pete's sake, and that means he does not substitute for black, ever.
This year Barack Obama is making a credible run for the presidency. Of course he's piled up huge votes from the black community -- but he's gotten white votes, too. He's not running a racial campaign (though between Hillary and conservative talk radio, he's having one forced on him); he's trying for broad appeal. And he's gotten more votes than any other Democratic candidate -- at least in the states where he contended.
There's the rub: Hillary is claiming that if you count her votes in Michigan and Florida, she got the most votes.
But that's a typical Clinton lie. Barack Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan. And yet so many voters detested Hillary Clinton that forty-five percent of them went to the polls to vote against her, casting their ballots for unpledged delegates.
In other words, even when she was running unopposed, Hillary had so many negatives that she could only win by ten points!
And if you count those unpledged votes in Barack Obama's column, which is where they would certainly have gone, then Hillary's argument evaporates. Obama would still have a clear plurality of votes ... and delegates.
There's no way around it: If Obama doesn't get the nomination, the nomination won't be worth having. With the negatives Hillary already brings to the table, there's no way she could hope to win in November without the enthusiastic support of the black community.
So why is she still pushing for a nomination that will be worthless to her if she gets it?
Is she really that dumb?
Some people think that Hillary expects that once she gets the nomination, she can then pull a rabbit out of the hat, Clinton style, and get black people to love her again.
Maybe she's that insanely optimistic, but I don't think she's that dumb. Black voters have memories that last longer than three months. If she "steals" the nomination, she will have zero credibility even if she grovels to black voters every day till the election.
No, Hillary has a very different plan. She knows she's lost for 2008, but she's planning for 2012.
If Obama gets the nomination this year and wins, Hillary won't dare to challenge an incumbent Democrat for the presidency. It would require her to wait until 2016 to run again. By then she'd be only a few years younger than John McCain is now. And she'd have to face whoever Obama's vice-president is to get the nomination. Too late.
So here's her plan. She will wait till after the last primaries. That whole time, she'll be leaving Obama exposed to whatever wounds her surrogates and the Republicans can inflict on him.
With luck, she'll do so well in Indiana and North Carolina that the party leadership will have real doubts about Obama. Then it will be plausible for her to wait right up to the eve of the convention, when she can graciously announce that in the interest of party unity she will ask all the super-delegates to vote for Obama.
She will make it plain, in private conversation, that she does not want the vice-presidential nomination. But she will make a show of campaigning vigorously for Obama, so that her loyalty will never be in doubt.
However, McCain will, in all likelihood, win the general election against a much-weakened Obama.
Then the collective wisdom of the Democratic Party will be: We shoulda picked Hillary.
Yes, some will say that if she hadn't contested the election right up to the eve of the convention, Obama might have won. But that argument will be dismissed because (a) she didn't force a floor fight on seating delegates from Michigan and Florida, so she could have made it worse, and (b) whatever damage was done to Obama by Hillary's people, she can actually blame it all on conservative talk radio and claim that it would have happened anyway.
What if she doesn't do particularly well in Indiana and North Carolina? (I'm certainly voting for Obama in North Carolina's Democratic primary, and I expect to see Obama take this state in a landslide.)
Then she'll still wait as long as she can to "generously" concede to Obama. But then she'll keep a flirtation about the vice-presidential nomination going for as long as she can, keeping her own name in the news and distracting from any hope of Obama organizing his campaign.
In short: Hillary is running for the nomination in 2012.
In 2012, either McCain will be so old and unhealthy he declines to run again, or he will be perceived as having had an unsuccessful presidency.
This is highly likely, since the media and the Democrats have been able to persuade the American people that George W. Bush's presidency has failed -- even though the economy has been booming and is still strong (through stresses Clinton never had to face) and we are prevailing in a war that even Hillary knows must be fought. They will certainly attempt to pull off the same stunt with McCain.
And in 2012, the black community will be solidly behind Hillary, because she did eventually bow out and give Obama his chance. It's not her fault if America didn't elect the black man (though of course it certainly will be partly her fault if he doesn't win).
And what if Obama gets the nomination and does win the election?
Well, Hillary knows what key party officials know: You have to run to the Left to win the Democratic nomination -- but you can't govern from the Left and hope to be reelected. Obama will be the president who surrendered in Iraq, and the ensuing bloodbath will be laid to his charge. So will all the acts of terrorism that follow his chatting up Hamas and Iran. So will Iran's possession of a nuclear weapon.
Then Hillary can claim that she would never have made those mistakes. She will challenge Obama's renomination after a disastrous presidency.
But she's betting that Obama can't win in November 2008. He'll never be president. And the way will be clear for her in 2012.
Hillary knows she can't win in 2008. Getting the nomination the only way she can get it now will make it worthless to her. So her only objective now is to do her best to make it worthless to Obama, too.
And she's doing a darn good job of it.
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