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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why Clinton Lost: Review of Hillary Clinton's Failed Campaign

Note: This is the third in a series on why Senator Clinton lost in her bid to become the democratic nominee for the US presidency. It was originally posted last Thursday. Thanks Tami and Francis for sharing your insights.
Why Clinton Lost the Election
by MacDaddy

Robert Creamer, author of "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," and commentator at Huffington Post, wrote a fascinating piece on Sen. Hillary Clinton, providing 10 reasons why she lost an democratic nominee for the US presidency.

Creamer said Obama won because he assembled a strong team that worked well together, developed an all-state (as opposed to the Clinton's big-states) strategy, executed better with all the little stuff, the nuts-and-bolts organizing on the ground; did better fund raising, communicated more effectively by using one consistent message about change and hope, used message of unity and hope to trump transcend fear and anger, and, on the whole, communicated portrayed Obama as he is in real life: a smart, charming, communicative, level-headed, and compassionate family man.

As for Sen. Clinton, she used a faulty big-state operational strategy, deployed an inappropriate political message (selling herself as a competent Washington insider at a time when America is begging for someone new, someone to make changes in Washington), and had no plan B past February 5.

Good analysis. But Creamer, you forgot one thing: Clinton's win at-all-cost mentality. To succeed in a man's world, Sen. Clinton had to be a fighter. Like a boxer running five miles a day, shadowboxing as she goes, she had to fight like hell to earn her place in the sun, her seat at the table in the senate, an all-boy's club if there ever was one.

To get there, she had to stay in fighting mode. She had to say to herself, "I'm not going to give up; I'm going to fight; and I'm going to win, no matter what it takes." Unfortunately, many women know this mentality all too well.

But at what point does a woman see the necessity to alter this mentality? Or can a woman sometimes move between fighter and peacemaker mode? Some would no doubt say yes. Others would no doubt say never-- not if you want to succeed, not if you want to break through the glass ceiling of a male-dominated society.

Maybe so. Maybe not. I think our society could very well be making a transition from a white male-ordered culture to something else-- something less definable yet more diverse in many ways. For instance, many a woman have left the corporate world and started their own businesses and, with it, started to change the rules and values in those particular institutions, one business at a time. Many men have chosen to work at home to be closer to their children or partner. And many fathers have chosen to raise their sons to be as free as possible from violent tv, movies and video games, guns and the other-as-enemy-mentality that got us into the amazingly stupid civil war called Iraq.

Maybe our society is catching up to those ideals it has long professed but never really manifested in practice to Senator Clinton or other oppressed classes: Ideals like equality, justice and democracy. But in the interim, when sex still sells and sexism (as in unequal women's pay for at least equal work to men) makes profit, is it really that difficult to understand why Senator Clinton wouldn't stay in a fighting mode? Why she wouldn't keep running , shadowboxing along the way, saying "I'm going to win no matter what it takes?" I didn't think so.

Nonetheless, that same win-at-all costs mentality that helped her to succeed, that got her to the senate, was, ultimately, the mentality that caused her demise in this campaign. It caused her to hire key advisors like Mark Penn, who presides over a consulting firm that counsels large corporations and governments on how to bust unions and whose man-the-torpedoes recommendations kept Senator Clinton from taking a breather, from showing voters the kind of person her closest friends swear she is (when she let's down the boxing gloves): a kind, compassionate and generous human being.

It caused her to portray herself to be as tough as any man, to be a warmonger if necessary at the precise time that Americans are desperately crying out for negotiations over pre-emptive war.

It caused her to sink to embarrassing depths of pandering: sitting at pubs with "ordinary Joes," throwing down shots of liquor and chasing it with a swig of beer; calling for an improbable and unworkable gas holiday; recalling her early Annie Oakley, gun-shooting days as a child in Scranton, Pennsylvania; and, worst of all, resorting to race-baiting against a member of her own party, a fellow colleague in the senate and a representative of a people who were her most loyal supporters (African Americans). Though she won the battle in Pennsylvania, she lost the respect of not only African American voters, but voters all across the country, including many white feminists who once sang her praises.

Some women will say that Senator Clinton is a fighter, that a woman must always stay in fighting mode to get what she wants. If true, that perhaps says more about our sexist society than a self-absorbed, power obsessed Hillary Clinton. But none of that can take away from the fact that it was her stop-at-nothing-throw-them- under-the-bus-if-necessary mentality that caused her to lose this democratic nomination.

But with a graceful exit extolling the virtues of party unity and the qualities that would make Obama the right president for our times, Hillary Clinton will live to fight again in 2012...if she can exit gracefully.

Update: For a different point of view, check out "Sexism and Privilege: parsing gender politics in the Clinton campaign" at whattamisaid.

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