Monday, May 05, 2008

"She's running a right-wing campaign"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Everything published in and by The Weekly Standard about the Democratic presidential race seems to contain an ulterior motive or two -- and that goes for Krazy Kristol and his NYT columns, too -- but sometimes, those times being rare, it manages to hit on the truth whether it intended to or not.

Case in point: Noemie Emery's "An Exceedingly Strange New Respect -- Hillary Clinton makes friends in some surprising precincts," published in the May 12 issue and available online (h/t: Chris Orr).

I have not been alone in pointing out that over the course of the race -- but especially since she decided to throw "the kitchen sink" at Obama, which is to say, since the seeming inevitability of her nomination was destroyed) -- Hillary has morphed into a Republican. As I put it last month, she has been "presenting herself as the red-blooded Heartland American running against a supposedly out-of-touch coastal elitist. She's been talking up guns and god, swilling beer and knocking back shots, and pandering to the very people she advised her husband to screw." An endorsement from the propagandistic rag of one of the key figures of the vast right-wing conspiracy, Dick Scaife, only proves the point.

And this is what Emery, writing in a propagandistic rag of the neocon variety, gets right:

She's running a right-wing campaign. She's running the classic Republican race against her opponent, running on toughness and use-of-force issues, the campaign that the elder George Bush ran against Michael Dukakis, that the younger George Bush waged in 2000 and then again against John Kerry, and that Ronald Reagan -- "The Bear in the Forest" -- ran against Jimmy Carter and Walter F. Mondale. And she's doing it with much the same symbols.


Her ads are like the ones McCain would be running in her place, and they'll doubtless show up in McCain's ads should Obama defeat her. She has said that while she and McCain are both prepared to be president, Obama is not. They act, he makes speeches. They take heat, while he tends to wilt or to faint in the kitchen. He may even throw like a girl.

And better -- or worse -- she is becoming a social conservative, a feminist form of George Bush. Against an opponent who shops for arugula, hangs out with ex-Weathermen, and says rural residents cling to guns and to God in unenlightened despair at their circumstances, she has rushed to the defense of religion and firearms, while knocking back shots of Crown Royal and beer. Her harsh, football-playing Republican father (the villain of the piece, against whom she rebelled in earlier takes on her story) has become a role model, a working class hero, whose name she evokes with great reverence. Any day now, she'll start talking Texan, and cutting the brush out in Chappaqua or at her posh mansion on Embassy Row.

For all the talk of Obama attracting independents and Republicans, it is actually Hillary who is attracting the latter. Conservatives seem drawn to her and, against Obama, she is winning the more conservative parts of the country overwhelmingly. Forget her victories in liberal bastions like New York, Massachusetts, and California, all of which Obama would win in November. She is doing well in large part because she is running so well in Red America -- in rural and small-town Pennsylvania, for example.

Her appeal is wider, I admit. White women, Hispanics, and the elderly are solidly on her side, as is much of the Democratic establishment. But it is striking how dramatically she has shifted to the right over the course of the race -- not so much in terms of policy, where she and Obama remain close, but in terms of the image of herself she is presenting to voters. And it is striking how dramatically many of those voters have bought it.

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