Hooray for Australian news sites.
May 9, 2008
Clinton's refusal to see reality is damaging her party and Barack Obama.
ARE you tired of the US election campaign? Not really sure what they're arguing about any more? If you're feeling as if you've lost the plot, don't worry. It's not because you're not American, or because you haven't been paying close enough attention: we Americans feel exactly the same.
The malaise that the endless Democratic primary campaign has inspired across the political spectrum was summed up by writer Nora Ephron, who described the ongoing contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as an "unending last episode of Survivor. They're eating rats and they're frying bugs and they're frying rats and they're eating bugs; no one is ever going to get off the island and I can't take it any more!"
Ephron wrote that a month ago, and nothing has changed. On Tuesday night, primary votes in North Carolina and Indiana once again confirmed everything we knew already. Obama is still safely in the lead, both in the popular vote and in the delegate count. Clinton is still behind. And even if they keep going until the Democratic convention in August, Obama will still be safely in the lead, and Clinton will still be behind. For Clinton to win now, she has to get her party to change the rules of its primary, post hoc (apparently she is planning to try) or bring more states into the union.
Which is ridiculous — but so is this campaign. If you've found the election hard to follow of late, that's because the only real issue at stake is Hillary Clinton's extraordinary, irrational, overwhelming ambition. As I write this, rumours that Clinton intends to drop out are in circulation. Allegedly, she cancelled her talk show appearances yesterday. Allegedly, her campaign is utterly broke. And yet no one can be certain that she won't fight to the last delegate, using up every cent of her own money (she lent her campaign another $6.4 million last week) and every last ounce of the Democratic Party's credibility, because everything we have learnt about her in the past few months indicates this is possible. Clearly, she wants so badly to win that she will try anything — and we know that "anything" includes adopting positions and methods of a kind she once claimed to abhor.
She is not above smear tactics, among them attempts to link Obama to '60s radicals, people with whom he had only the slightest contact, if at all. She is not above hints, verging on racist, that a black man can't win the general election. She is not above exaggerating her achievements, claiming to have helped "bring peace" to Northern Ireland and to have dodged sniper fire in Bosnia.
Bizarre though this will sound to foreign ears, she has also spent much of the past two months trying to remake herself as a whiskey-drinking, gun-toting, blue-collar politician, the candidate of the working class. Although she is a multimillionaire whose best friends are multimillionaires, although she spent most of her life among what can only be described as the elitest of the liberal elite, and although her opponent was raised by a single mother and went to university on scholarships, she has run around in circles trying to convince people that he is the elitist, and she is the populist.
The Chicago Tribune analysed her speeches and determined that she was using grammar and vocabulary several grade levels below that deployed by Obama, "the language of the least-educated, lowest-earning voters". At one point, this long-time supporter of gun control described how her father taught her to shoot.
It would take a psychologist, not a political analyst, to explain why she does this. To prove some feminist point? To show that she's the equal of Bill? To take revenge for Monica?
Still, barring a "deus ex machina" or an Obama implosion of some unpredictable kind, sooner or later she'll have to step down. When she does so, she'll leave a divided party in her wake, as well as a candidate seriously weakened by her prolonged campaign.
You may be bored by the election campaign, but the Democratic Party, when it wakes from this nightmare, will be very angry. And if John McCain beats Obama in November, it is not the Republican Party, but Hillary Clinton who will be blamed.
Anne Applebaum is a columnist with The Washington Post . This article first appeared in the Telegraph.