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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why Clinton Lost: The Biggest Reason of All

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 perspective, check out "Sexism and privilege: parsing gender politics in the Clinton campaign" at whattamisaid.


Anonymous said...

"Cream said Obama won because he assembled a strong team that worked well together, developed an all-state (as opposed to bigger states) strategy, executed better with all the little stuff, the nuts-and-bolts organizing on the grounds; did better fundraising, communicated better with a consistent message about change and hope, used message of unity and hope to trump transcend fear and anger, and basically communicated the type of person he really is: a smart, communicative, level-headed, and compassionate family man."

I don't think the republicans noticed this or see it coming. Underestimating will work in his favor for awhile. But when it boils down to our ONE VOTE --and screw the politics-- isn't this the kind of campaign/person we really want to align ourselves with? If there is ANY sanity left in this process, the answer has to be YES

SagaciousHillbilly said...

That's about it. I also happened to know through my (ahem) inside sources. . . that the Obama campaign mounted a VERY strong door to door camapign every where they went. They did neighborhood canvases all over the place which is what contact with the people is all about these days. That will benefit them all the way through Nov.

Danielle said...

Great post. You said it all. As a woman, Sen. Clinton saddens me. I can't even begin to articulate my deep disappoinment w/how she has chosen to conduct herself in this campaign.

Yes, sexism does exist. No doubt, but she didn't step up like a professional and talk issues and vision and that's another reason that's causing her to lose the "war".

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Danielle, I'd love to hear what you're just sayin.
And yes, Billary really missed their opportunity.
My wife, as a professional woman who broke some ground herself, had every intention of voting for her, but then got to the point where she simply could not.

MacDaddy said...

Danielle, sagacious: This is a sad but it also begs the question, How do we support Obama and,at the same time, make sure Hillary's supporter know that this is in no way a repudiation of women or the goal of having a woman to be president?

Moving forward, I would like to see a Hillary Clinton who ismore supportive of the party, Barack Obama; and I would like to see Obama show an appreciation for that support by appointing her to a cabinet post, such as Secretary of Health and Welfare. I would also like to see some of her supporter's involved in an Obama administration, such as Barbara Lee Jackson, Maxine Waters, Marilyn Albright, General Wesley Clark and others.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

MAc, I don't see how an Obama administration is not going to use at least a few of thee Clinton supporters. I just don't see Mr. Obama being vindictive.

Frankly, after her performance these past few months, my good will toward her is not strong. Perhaps, come 2009, it will have faded and I will feel OK about President Obama appointing her to a cabinet position.Why not? She would probably work hard and try to get things done.

I hope that the feminists for Hillary don't see the Obama nomination as any sort of action against women. It's not like he was some republican thug corpo-fascist running a sexist campaign against his opponent. I believe Mr. Obama is probably a strong feminist.
Too bad we can't say that the Billary campaign has not been heavily tinged with racism.

MacDaddy said...

sagacious: Hillary Clinton should have had you on your campaign. I hear she paid big shot consultant Mark Penn 100 million. She could have gotten you a bargain, say 60 million. Would 60 mill be enough for you?

Anonymous said...

Hi, MacDaddy....Just got around to reading your piece on WHY HILLARY LOST....I hope that one day we will have a woman president, but not a carbon copy of the sterotypical male who has to be top dog, dominator, etc. etc...I want to see a woman pres. who brings all the feminine qualities that are life-giving: compassnion, nurturance, courage, patience,and so on....And by the way, I am forWOMEN PRIESTS in the Catholic church, but in the present mode of male clericalism I am not the least bit interested.
This Nun in the Hood is perfectly content being ordained by the People of the Streets!

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Mac, I'd do Hillary for one million.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

I once took a course in "Feminist Ethics." It was taught by a raging left wing NOW prof.
That was the essence of what I took out of the class that feminist ethics involved "life-giving: compassnion, nurturance, courage, patience,and so on."

MacDaddy said...

sagacious: She's been saying the right things lately. She knows it's over. But it's going to be difficult for her supporters to support Obama-- after all the terrible things she said about him. She's going to have to work hard to undo the problem she created. I hope she succeeds.

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

Clinton would have won if she had just held onto half of the Black vote, and she entered the race with 80% to 90% of the Black vote.

There are a lot of reasons that Clinton lost the Black vote, and you'd have to divide these reasons into two lists that are not the same: (a) the reasons Blacks voted FOR Obama and (b) the reasons Blacks voted AGAINST Clinton.

Let's look at the reasons Blacks voted FOR Obama:

1). He's obviously a genius intellect,

2). He's a US Senator with the institutional position from which to run for president,

3). Whites voted for Obama first, in Iowa and New Hampshire, which meant that Obama had a real chance to win if Blacks switched support from Clinton to Obama,

4). Obama ran a very principled and directed campaign with a very positive message of hope and change,

5). Obama said, "This is our time for change," which was a subtle enough message that it was Blacks' time to pull together and do something as one.

6). The same Black bloggers and Black online organizations that organized the Jena March also called on Blacks to go to the polls and vote for Barack Obama.

Now, let's look at just a few of the reasons why Blacks voted AGAINST Clinton, in no particular order:

1) Clinton failed to understand, in spite of warnings that she received, that Blacks would identify with Obama and would feel insulted every time Obama was insulted,

2). Clinton engaged in a horde of color-arousal strategies intended to convince Blacks and whites not to believe in or vote for Obama because of his skin color, each of which strategies infuriated Blacks and caused us to identify more strongly with his struggle against Hillary,

3). When Hillary's people told Iowans that Obama was a Muslim, we realized that argument could be used against any of us, and so Clinton really must never have felt any real solidarity with Black American,

4). When Clinton suggested that America's only Black member of the US Congress should be suspected of having been a drug dealer, we realized that was based on his skin color, which meant ALL Black people who had ever used marijuana should be suspected of having been a drug dealer. This was the first time ANY presidential candidate had been so accused and it was clearly based on skin color, since no information was ever offered to support this accusation,

5). Clinton's attempts to convince Blacks not to vote for Obama were inept, whether they came from white surrogates or Black surrogates. These efforts were all based on Obama's skin color instead of any substantive aspect of Obama's plan for America.

6). Even though most of us agreed that Clinton had more experience, we were willing to overlook this when Obama became viable AND we became furious with Clinton for trying to color arouse the public against Black people.

7). In South Carolina, Bill Clinton's comparison to Jesse Jackson demeaned Obama ON THE BASIS OF SKIN COLOR. If Bill had instead compared Obama to Gary Hart, with Gary Hart's "New Ideas", that would have been much more effective, both with Blacks and with whites.

8). The more Blacks heard Clinton argue against Obama, the more convinced we became that we would never vote for Clinton, but instead that we would vote AGAINST her. Even those of us who were not completely convinced about Obama nonetheless became completely convinced AGAINST Clinton by what she said. She would have gotten more Black votes if she had said nothing about Obama at all, or if she had argued against him using traditional arguments that were not aroused by Obama's skin color.

For white politicians, the message is to give Black competitors the respect to run against them the way you would run against any white candidate. This way, you can win white votes while keeping your Black base.

Instead, Clinton proved that she was unscrupulous and would use the Southern Strategy nationwide before even trying others at her disposal. Good riddance to her!

MacDaddy said...

Hey, Francis: Very good analysis. Both your and my analysis make similar points but use different language and perhaps emphasis. For example, whereas I saw her as a politician who would stoop to any level of pandering to get the so-called working class voter (as if blacks don't have a class that works), you saw as an updated version of a southern strategy and using "color-arousing" messages to do so.

I also like you points that the Clinton's attempt to get us to go against Obama were ineffective; and the more she tried to get us to vote against him (as opposed to talkimg about her own policies), the more we decided to vote for Obama. Good analysis

To me, the broader issue may be that blacks felt betrayed. To see the Clinton's be so dismissive of Obama, a competent black candidate, to hear her say Obama is not experience when actually he has more legislative experience than she; to hear her husband race-bait hurt. After all, when Republican right-wing nuts came out of the woodwork talking about one scandal after another, when the Lewinsky affair unfolded, it was black people who stuck with him. In fact, you saw influential blacks like Vernon Jordan and John Lewis at the white house all the time; and you saw black ministers like Rev. Jessie Jackson and Rev. Wright going in and out of the white house every day to comfort them. Then, when viable, electable candidate comes along, they minimize and dis him, saying all he has is one speech. Black folks said, "After all the support we've given to you and you go dis a brother like that, goodbye."

We felt betrayed and we still do. When it comes to the Clintons, Black folks are singing B.B. King: "The Thrill is Gone."

Thanks, Francis. I'm still trying to get into AfroSpear. Is there someone I can phone directly?