You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!
—MP Leo Amery, using the works of Oliver Cromwell to berate Neville Chamberlain, 9 May 1940
No one can accuse Hillary Clinton of sitting around, but large numbers of us heartily wish she would depart.
As with her partner, she has no one to blame but herself. She never trusted her own instincts, perhaps because she couldn’t hear them over the static of image management and positioning that has gone on since she arrived in the Senate. Lots of people come to New York state to run for higher office, but few have been as effective as Senators, at least to judge by the breadth of her support there. You might say her original campaign for the Senate was a 62-county strategy, no mean feat especially for someone not naturally at home in the rural burgs and depressed ex-factory towns of upstate and the west.
She never needed to get stuck with her husband’s political inheritance, and she could have managed some distance from it without at all appearing to be disloyal. After all, she endured the worst kind of public private humiliation and stuck with him. She didn’t need to belittle her primary opponent’s rhetoric about coming together to get problems solved—her record of bipartisan management in the Senate, even as a rank freshman, has been impressive. She didn’t need to put on the tank-helmet of sniper fire in Kosovo—she has built a credible enough history on the Armed Services committee to withstand the sniping of misogynist Republican warmongers. And she particularly didn’t need all the pretzel logic around her Iraq vote, when like many of the rest of us, she believed that the Bushrovers could never be so ultimately and criminally mendacious as to completely stack the intelligence deck about WMDs and hang Colin Powell out to dry, live, in front of a world-wide audience.
All she had to do was say she was wrong.
She might have had a good run from Barak Obama, who as we have since seen in abundance, would have conducted a campaign in no way detrimental to the greater interests of the popular Democratic Party. She had the brand, the organization, the early money (and a lot of it), the personal fortune (as we have since come to understand), the cadres of field ops, managers, advisors, and in-place pols at every level of government. Regardless of Obama’s obvious qualities, it’s been Hillary’s to lose all along.
And the fallout from the initial shock of not just walking away with the prize has been ugly and depressing to watch. How long have some of us waited for a truly viable female Presidential candidate? How ridiculous is it that this has not happened yet in the US? And yet, the kind of mandate of democratic heaven that Hillary Clinton started with seemed to bemuse her with a sense of personal inevitability that is almost always a fatal condition in US politics. The historical rectitude of a woman president somehow converted to a far-too-obvious sense of personal entitlement, which in the context of dynastic family presidential politics of late should have been the last sensation to exhibit to the voters, sick to death, some literally, of the Bushes and all their works.
Now, in the latter days of her grimly smiling impersonation of indomitability, she has produced a truly terrifying display of posturing and pandering to deeply suspect tendencies. Interviewer: “Is Obama a Muslim?” Hillary: “No, of course not, not to my knowledge”. That sneaky little phrase, with its outrageous but deniable innuendo, has been followed by any number of essentially right-wing republican maneuvers, of which the gas-tax holiday is only the latest. The charges of elitism are so manifestly more accurate when reversed. The idea that she is valuable because she has a lock on the white man redneck vote, which is just a veiled piece of racism—these guys are never gonna vote democrat anyway. The escalating tendency to lump the black vote into a pro-Obama block, as if her own race-baiting didn’t make it so. (Certainly her’s is a subtler species of racial polarization than, say, George Wallace’s, but no less toxic.)
And now, soldiering on in the face of any kind of populist mathematics, the bottom line of all her current rationales cannot be other than inciting the super-delegates to overturn a pledged delegate and popular vote plurality. If it were to come to pass, the Democratic party in one blow would sever its future life in a country that is increasingly of color and, as politicians are always the last to understand, inherited by our children. She would be crushed by the republican machine in a race of unequaled vitriol, fueled by over a decade of monomaniacal opposition research, unable to effectively counter McLame on the war, or on most other aspects of a disastrous Republican foreign policy which has destroyed our credibility abroad and our credit at home.
It is very difficult to see how Hillary can understand the value of continuing to fight the battle at this point. It is not as if she will be seen as a weakling by bowing out. I think she has burned up a huge amount of good will all over her party, and with independents, but she cannot even at this moment be seen as other than a formidable politician.
But she doesn’t seem to know how to stop. That’s really the veridical resonance of Samantha Power’s offhand remark to The Scotsman: “She’s a monster.” Of course, she isn’t—she’s a first class politician who could have been the first female president of the United States. That’s a painful prize to surrender. But it’s even more painful to watch her frantically twisting to outrace her self-induced defeat.