Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hillary Takes the Low Road

"You take the high road, I'll take the low." Those were Hillary Clinton's sentiments in what should have been a concession speech on Tuesday night. Rather than conceding defeat to Barack Obama, however, Ms. Clinton elected to use the well-coordinated media event to trot out her well-rehearsed rationale for being the Democratic Party's nominee in the 2008 Presidential election.

Among her advantages over Obama, Ms. Clinton points to her lead in vote tally among those voting in primaries, the votes of roughly 18,000 million voters who, according to Ms. Clinton, "will be disenfranchised" if she does not receive the Party's nomination, and the pirating of delegates due her from the Michigan and Florida elections.

By Ms. Clinton's reckoning, the only thing standing in the way of her nomination for president by the Democratic Party is the inability of those who do not support her to support her. That's all.

Even assuming Ms. Clinton is correct in each of her assumptions, her conclusion clearly is flawed. Even by her math, Obama has won the nomination. And he has done so in spite of having to play by the rules largely written by Party members--people like Ms. Clinton's top campaign advisor, Harold Ickes, who, as a sitting member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Commission, voted in favor of the rules applied to punish Michigan and Florida for holding primaries too early.

A sparsely more careful examination of Ms. Clinton's claims suggests the utter folly of her basic assumptions.

Most fatally flawed is Ms. Clinton's bizarre assertion that she has earned the Party's nomination on the basis of having a greater primary vote total. Mr. Ickes leads the charge on this front, noting that the last candidate to receive the Democratic Party's nomination while receiving fewer primary votes than a democratic competitor was Hubert Humphrey. "And we all know what happened in that election," Mr. Ickes disengenuously chided.

There is a great deal of history that one needs to cover regarding how primaries were handled prior to and after the 1968 conventions--far more than there is space for in this column and far more than Mr. Ickes would ever care to have rehashed for those to whom he has made this preposterous pitch. In short, it was a different era in presidential politics and one not worthy of comparison to the present environment--on any level.

A more fatal flaw with Ms. Clinton's primary vote argument, however, rests with what the argument fails to reconcile. For, while Ms. Clinton received more votes from those voting in primaries, the final tally reflects only votes cast in primaries. By Ms. Clinton's logic, and contrary to her stated qualms about "not counting all the votes," those voting in caucus states have no vote. That's not only a disservice to Mr. Obama, who faired much better in caucus states than did Ms. Clinton, it is also, presumably, if one takes Ms. Clinton at her word, an injustice to those who voted in caucus states.

Ms. Clinton's nominating math becomes murkier yet when one considers that, by design and definition, the Democratic Party nominates its presidential candidate on the basis of delegates--not on the basis of popular vote. And while the suspect injection of super delegates into the process--a creation largely the doing of people such as Mr. Ickes, Mr. Clinton, and Mr. McAuliffe, all strong Clinton backers--provides some delegates the opportunity to allocate their support to the candidate that boasts the better or more significant popular support, even the majority of super delegates--widely aligned with Ms. Clinton at the start of the campaign--now support Mr. Obama.

The short story is that Ms. Clinton had an opportunity on Tuesday night to foster party unity--something about which she has professed to value as much as sound policy. Instead, she opted to continue her campaign and to do so by perpetuating the same rationale that she has fallen back on since first realizing that she will not have the support of delegates to receive the Democratic Party's nomination--math that, even when accurate, does not support her claim to deserving the Party's nomination over Obama.

In taking the low road, in causing further instability for the Democratic Party, Ms. Clinton has fed fuel to the fire of her base, doing nothing to discourage the movement to write in her name in the general election or to "sit out the election." All of which stands as Exhibit A as to why Ms. Clinton failed to obtain the Party's nomination in spite of starting with a tremedous lead and all of the advantages. While Mr. Obama has managed to maintain a decorum and pledge of inclusiveness, Ms. Clinton has harkened back to the politics of divisiveness--the last vestiges of a defeated party.

Up Next: Dream Ticket No Dream Ticket.

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