Hillary Clinton would make a good president.
There is no ambiguity in my mind about the above statement. I mean, yes, sure, I said “good,” not “great.” There are issues on which I disagree with her, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like her style of governing, but there is no question that she’s competent and qualified and would be an enormous improvement over George W. Bush, and is unquestionably to be preferred over John McCain.
Recently several people – commenters anonymous and not, and people in “real life,” as well – have suggested (or bluntly stated) that I am some crazy Hillary Hater, a naïf who’s bought into the media “hype” over Obama and drunk too much of the Kool-Aid. My long-term readers, however, know that I’ve been on-board with Obama since he declared, back in the days when no one thought he had a realistic chance, and that I have been upset with Hillary – who used to be my senator – since she voted to support the Iraq war.
The war is still my biggest issue with her. Experience is an important presidential attribute, but so is judgment, and on the single most important vote of her senate career, she made the wrong choice.
Some of her supporters – and now, alas, the candidate herself – are claiming that her campaign has been disadvantaged by sexism. That may be true, to an extent, but then this is a candidate who fails to acknowledge that she has benefited from the support of voters who openly proclaim that they won’t vote for a black man or a Muslim (not to mention that Obama is not a Muslim). It is asinine and dishonest to argue that Obama has coasted to victory on the “advantage” of being a black man while she has been hobbled by misogyny. Discrimination goes both ways.
She began this campaign as the clear front-runner; indeed, the word “inevitable” was used before she’d even officially declared. Going into Super Tuesday, she led by more than 60 superdelegates. To say that her campaign was derailed by sexism is to imagine that it was only on February 6 that the nation suddenly realized we had a woman in the contest and started flocking to the men. And it certainly doesn’t explain why she was still validly in the race long after Edwards, Richardson and the rest had been forced to concede.
No, the unfortunate truth for Hillary and her supporters is that the nation prefers Barack Obama. Yes, it’s a close race, but in elections second place is second place.
The awkward part is that Hillary does not seem to accept that she is in second place. In fact, she is openly promoting what could only charitably be called a “distortion” that she leads in the popular vote.
Let’s be clear about several things. The nominating process is flawed and bizarre, but the rules were agreed to by all parties, and you can’t change the rules at the end of the contest. The only metric that actually matters is the delegate count. Senator Clinton supported punishing Michigan and Florida for moving their primaries up in the calendar. Her top campaign aide (and superdelegate) Harold Ickes himself voted in August 2007 to strip the two states of their delegates.
I agree that it is unfair to the voters of the two states to punish them for the irresponsible actions of the state party leaders, but that’s what Hillary herself agreed to do. She’s so far behind that even seating the delegates won’t overtake Obama’s lead, so that’s why she’s pushing the popular vote meme. But her strategy is even sketchier than that: in Michigan, where she was the only candidate on the ballot, she garnered 55% of the vote. She includes all of those non-counting votes in her popular vote total, but grants none of the 41% of Michigan voters who bothered to show up for a non-binding primary to register their support for “Uncommitted’ (aka, Anyone But Hillary) to Obama. If she did, she’d be behind in the popular vote again. For all her talk of “disenfranchising” Florida and Michigan, there’s 41% of Michigan voters she needs to ignore. If she gets her way, we’ll end up punishing Obama for playing by the rules.
But wait, it’s worse. Obama won three caucus states (Iowa, Washington and Maine) that only report delegates, not the total number of voters. Since we don’t officially know how many people voted in those states she simply discounts them. Or, in her terminology, disenfranchises them. It’s this kind of truth-with-an-asterisk politics that has hobbled her campaign, far more than her gender.
If Obama weren’t in the race, I would definitely be supporting Senator Clinton. But he is, and I prefer him, and so do the majority of Democrats. He leads by every measure except the fake one Clinton has trotted out. She has lost fair and square, and her insistence on promoting intellectually dishonest numbers to bolster her campaign undermines her viability and discredits her genuine achievements. If she chooses to continue to compete in the Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana primaries, that is her right. But when the time comes, she needs to concede graciously and support the nominee.