Monday, March 31, 2008

Should Hillary withdraw?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

At HuffPo, Steve Clemons notes that the world is watching and that the "race should go all the way" to the end:

[Obama and Clinton] struggling against each other for every superdelegate, every pending state primary, every vote is the best thing America has had going for it in some time on the "global public diplomacy" front... The world is watching, learning. And American popularity in the eyes of global citizens watching us is surging because of the excitement and uncertainty of this fascinating election.

Well, yes. (Some) Democrats are worried about the toll the prolonged battle is taking on their party, worried that it is weakening the party in terms of its prospects for November, Republicans are salivating, ever hopeful that the Democratic Party will collapse in upon itself, which may be their only hope for November, and the chattering classes of the 24/7 news cycle, which feed off the "horse race" and focus on the sensationalism that they themselves manufacture, both want the race to continue and talk up the alleged negatives of the race continuing.

As an Obama supporter, I would certainly like the race to end -- with Obama the winner. And yet I recognize, with Steve, that the race is good for American democracy and good for America's image abroad. Especially after the 2000 fiasco, but also after seven-plus years of the Bush presidency, and all that it has done to undermine democracy at home and America's credibility in much of the rest of the world, the Obama-Clinton race showcases many of the strengths of America's political system. It shows the world, just as it shows Americans themselves, that democracy is alive and well in the United States, that democracy can withstand uncertainty, that America has a vigorous party system (albeit a mostly two-party system), that opposition and dissent, even within parties, are not just permitted but encouraged, that the people -- and make no mistake, this is supposed to be about the people, democracy's rulers -- can be healthily engaged in the political process.

Steve's post is a response to recent calls for Clinton to drop out of the race. Given that she has little to no chance of winning, it seems, the sooner Obama can be declared the nominee, the better. Clinton herself is saying that she intends to stay in the race all the way to the convention in August in Denver (and that she'll take the Florida/Michigan issue to the credentials committee, where things probably wouldn't be resolved in her favour). Obama himself has said that Clinton ought to stay in the race for "as long as she wants," but some top Democrats -- admittedly, Obama supporters like Sens. Leahy and Dodd -- are pushing for her to drop out, not push on for another five months. Here's Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report:

[I]f Democrats want to end this nomination fight and get ready for the general election, party leaders are going to have to intervene. About 800 superdelegates [woke] up [yesterday] morning and [learned] that Hillary Clinton wants this fight to go on for another five months, no matter what happens in any contest between now and June. If they're with that prospect, they can sit on the sidelines, watch the fighting play out, and hope for the party will figure out a way to win an eight-week general election campaign in the fall.

Or they can decide they're not satisfied with five more months of intra-party warfare, endorse Obama publicly, and take control of the process. It's really up to them.

In an editorial yesterday, The Washington Post made the case for the race to continue -- not because it's good for America but because "their extended contest informs the electorate and serves to battle-test them both," "millions of votes are yet to be cast," "two qualified candidates believe themselves to be the best potential Democratic nominee," there is "excitement in the Democratic Party" (with turnout and registrations way up), and "this contest is far from over." In response, Steve Benen lists some of "the arguments against keeping the race going, all of which concern the not-insignificant matter of how well prepared the Democrats will be for the general election campaign against McCain.

Make what you will of all this. Despite my many posts directed against Clinton and her campaign, I am somewhere between the two Steves on this. The race may very well be good for America's image abroad, evidence of democratic strength at home, but I am deeply concerned about November. The race could and perhaps should continue through Pennsylvania (April 22), or North Carolina and Indiana (May 6), but all the way to the convention? For what? Ultimately, this is about winning in November, and it seems to me that what would truly be good for America's image abroad, as well as for America's foreign policy, as well as for democracy at home, is a Democratic victory in November. And that means, it seems, an Obama victory in November. Ultimately, the Democratic Party needs to do what is best for Obama.

Does that mean Clinton should withdraw? Perhaps not yet, but, if nothing changes -- and even a win in Pennsylvania wouldn't change much -- sooner rather than later. And there may yet be a third option for her. As The Plank's Issac Chotiner points out, there is "the Huckabee route," suggested yesterday by David Brooks on Meet the Press:

I think she should slow down the campaign, run what Mike Huckabee ran, a dignified campaign, not attacking her opponents, go through North Carolina and then get out. She really has very little opportunity to win. The Jeremiah Wright thing was big, the big scandal, the biggest thing Barack Obama's faced really in months. It didn't hurt him. We now have the polling results from poll after poll. It's clear it didn't hurt him. The voters were not shaken off him. The -- Michigan and Florida are not going to revote, the superdelegates are never going to overrule the pledge delegates, so her chances are really small.

I rarely direct praise in Brooks's direction, but his suggestion makes sense. It would be good for Obama, good for the party, and good for Clinton herself (given her present position and lingering ambitions).

So why not? Obama is in the lead according to the metrics that matter (although the Clinton campaign and her surrogates are desperately trying to advance metrics that show her ahead), including the latest poll numbers, and her withdrawal sooner rather than later would allow the party to unify and heal itself (and to avoid yet more weeks and months of division and bitterness, not to mention a divided and bitter convention) and Obama to begin his general election campaign against McCain well in advance of the convention.

It may not be time yet, but it soon will be.

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  • i am going to guess that her fat cat donors want to get their monies' worth. she can't quit until they tell her she can quit- and apparently, they are quite full of themselves openly threatening the speaker of the house. our entire election system needs to be rehauled but i have to say i was baffled and annoyed that out of like 12 candidates- they winnowed themselves down to 2 Before the primaries started. how is this a choice? at this point, the only thing i am worrying about is whether or not to recuse myself of my vote for president come november.

    By Blogger billie, at 9:20 AM  

  • Given that the credentials committee is constituted much like the senate (a fixed number of delegates by state regardless of population), and that Obama has won the majority of states, there is no way Clinton can prevail in a credentials fight.

    Furthermore, it seems, the Clinton campaign is heavily in debt and has become a notorious deadbeat. Stiffing vendors is not my idea of ethical treatment in business or in politics.

    Cozying up and making peace with Scaif, author of the so-called "vast right wing conspiracy," is yet another development that concerns me. This "win-at-all-costs" mentality, even if it means selling out to former political enemies, suggests a Clinton presidency that may turn out to be little improvement over the Bush presidency.

    I don't want more character-disordered people in the White House. Time to get the hook.

    By Blogger Swampcracker, at 10:02 AM  

  • I've thought about it for a long time now and the short answer to that question is yes.

    By Blogger Libby Spencer, at 8:22 PM  

  • And I'm leaning even more toward "Yes" today. Clinton is now playing the "Obama-is-thwarting-democracy" card over Florida and Michigan. Which is just plan stupid. Obama took his name off the ballot in Michigan, just as Edwards and others did, when the Democratic Party stripped that state of its delegates. And he didn't campaign in Florida, just as the others did, including Hillary, when the Democratic Party stripped that state of its delegates. Yet it was Clinton who went down to Florida to claim victory, and now it is Hillary who wants to change the rules.

    And now she's trying to throw it all in Obama's face?


    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 8:43 PM  

  • By Blogger Unknown, at 5:16 AM  

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