Hillary Clinton for President — A Post-Mortem

Let me start off by saying, I have a genuine affection for
Hillary Clinton, and I think she’d make a very good president. If she had won
the nomination, I would have put her bumper sticker on my car, put a sign in my
bedroom window, and campaigned for her as hard as I will for Barack Obama.

That said, I’m glad she lost in the primaries this year, because
if she had won the nomination, I’m afraid we’d be looking at another Al
Gore/John Kerry scenario in the fall. That’s because, while Hillary Clinton is very qualified to be president, and
has the tenacity to handle the job, she and her people seem to be tone-deaf, politically speaking.

Barack Obama was not a phenomenon when he
entered the race. In fact, when he first said he was running, even I was
thinking it was possibly too soon. Barack Obama BECAME a phenomenon,
because he listens, politically, and tailors his message to what the people
are saying.

The way I see it, Hillary Clinton is a very good candidate
who surrounded herself with the biggest collection of overpriced idiots in Democratic Party politics. Now, those who have been reading me a while know of my deep dislike for
the DLC. The DLC "leadership" are like the Keystone Kops of
Democratic electoral politics, and
their “leadership” is why the Democratic Party lost the majority in
Congress to
a bunch of right wing losers, why Gore and Kerry both “lost” to a moron
George W. Bush, so I was dismayed to find that Hillary Clinton had hired half the DLC to run her campaign. They are the reason Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the
to Barack Obama. This woman wants to be president, yet she literally surrounded herself with losers. Mark Penn? Howard Wolfson? Terry McAuliffe? If only she’d added Bob Shrum, she could have a team completely bereft of political

This is a woman who has been the presumptive nominee for
most of the last four years. She probably would have won the nomination had she
run in 2004, but she promised New York that she’d finish out her first term and was true to
her word. So, she was a shoo-in for a long time. That is, she was until the votes started
coming in.

What happened?

I know the conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama
happened, but conventional wisdom is only rarely correct. There is a
movement happening, but Barack Obama isn’t the movement himself; he is a politician
who recognizes the movement that’s happened, and is more than happy to ride the
wave. He represents the movement. He is inspiring people because he’s saying what people are thinking.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been politically
tone-deaf; incapable of seeing the writing on the wall. The electorate
changed since 1992, and yet, she’s running campaign as if she was Bill
Clinton, not Hillary, and this was 1992 all over again. Her overarching
campaign themes have been experience and

Yes, you read that right. Her overarching
rationale for you voting for her is because she has 34 years of
experience (doing what, we’re not sure), and that she has the
competence to "hit the ground running on day one."

Inspiring, isn’t it? Isn’t that what the American people are looking
for? The most disastrous president in history; a guy who has put this
country in the deepest hole in our history, and the best we can come up
with is "She’s ready on Day One"?Voters are looking for inspiration, not perspiration. 

And given the fact that most of the candidates in the Democratic
race at first had more experience than Hillary Clinton, anyway, you
would think someone in her campaign would have noticed and perhaps
changed the theme a little.  And frankly, except for having a spouse
who used to be president, there was little evidence that Hillary would
likely be more competent than anyone else running.  After eight years
of the secretive Bush Administration, there’s no way anyone can claim
to know exactly what they will do when they will take office next
January; it’s liable to be a mess far worse than anticipated. And that
mess will require a large number of very competent people working hard
to reverse things. Given Clinton’s choice of people to run her
campaign, the evidence that she would be "ready on day one" was a
little bit tainted, anyway.

This election is nothing like 1992. Bush’s father
was less than wholly competent, but he wasn’t a disaster, and he didn’t
oversee the level of corruption his son has overseen, nor did he have a
compliant Republican Congress to go along with everything he did. This
election season, people are pissed. The neocons have run the country
into the ground for nearly 30 years, and it’ll take a lot more than
mere competence to bring it
back; people expect bold vision, not just basic wonkishness. Also,
voters are tired of all the partisan rancor; they don’t want to hear
the constant negatives that have marred every campaign the neocons have
been involved in, especially since 1988. Voters want two things; they
want to see the country move in a different direction, and they want to
see politicians with a positive message.

Obama won because his people see the changes in the electorate, and
have adjusted to them. Clinton lost because her people are incapable of
seeing them. That her main criticism
of Obama as a nominee is that the right wing attack machine will go
after him and "eat him
alive" is evidence of just how out-of-touch she and her staff are. Her
people should know better; the right wing is practically toothless.
The teeth started coming out in 2006, and they only have a couple of
left. They can throw anything they want at Obama; it won’t matter the
way it
did in 2000 and 2004. If you doubt that, look closely at the crap
they’ve thrown at Obama; it hits him, he loses a couple of points in the polls, and three days later, he’s back again, as if nothing had happened. It’s not working, and it’ll work less the longer they know him.

There are many reasons for this, of course, none of which
seem to have occurred to the idiots running the Clinton campaign, or
even most of
the media pundits jawing away daily, handicapping a race that won’t be
decided until November, but which seems to always turn on some bit of
minutiae six months before the fact.

People are fed up, and they want a change; a major
change. When 81% of people polled think the country’s on the wrong
track, no amount of wishing can change the reality that people want to
replace those in charge. Yes, they mostly blame the Republican
Party for the irresponsibility of the
last few years, but just as importantly, voters blame the mindset that caused it;
the same mindset the DLC, and by extension the Clinton campaign, have helped
perpetuate over the last couple of decades, because they operated on the
mistaken presumption that the
country was moving to the right, and they needed to move with it to win. They were wrong, and they continue to be wrong.

Look at the reality of our situation, and tell me
why people shouldn’t be royally pissed off right now. Twice in the last eight
years, millions of Americans have seen their retirement nest egg put at risk on some
level, because the government failed to do its job,
and oversee commerce in
this country. Not once, but TWICE! First, there was the shocking
realization that thousands of companies had
cooked the books for years, to make their stock perform better. Who
could ever imagine such a thing, right? Isn’t this what the
government’s supposed to oversee? Many people lost a huge portion of
their retirement
portfolio, and have had to work for years to make it up. Then, after
corrections were made to that system,
and a lot of people made up a small portion of those losses, we now find out that crooks were essentially allowed to sell homes to
unqualified buyers with impunity, using mortgage instruments that right
wing Republicans thought were just nifty, but which should have been
Now, millions more families are upside down in their mortgage, the
single largest
investment they will make in their lifetimes, and in many cases, it
will take a miracle for them to break even by the time they pay off their
mortgage. Add to that the loss of a major city to a
hurricane, two completely botched wars and an incredibly corrupt system
of government contracts that has resulted in the handover of trillions of taxpayer dollars
to crooks. And then there are gas prices that have tripled in eight
years, the out of control national debt, largely financed by China, and they’ve turned flying from place to place into an exercise in, well, I’d say torture, but we torture others far worse now. Then, on top of its complete incompetence, there’s the arrogance to think that spying on us somehow makes us safer. It shouldn’t be difficult to surmise why the electorate
is pissed off and wants a governmental attitude adjustment.

Yet, the people in charge of Hillary Clinton’s campaign
don’t seem to understand the level of change voters are looking for, which is almost revolutionary in scope. Voters aren’t looking for a return to the Bill Clinton years;
that’s not enough change.  Bill Clinton was a good president, but
voters want someone who will change the entire mindset in Washington.
We haven’t had one for a while, but what we’re seeing is a reform movement; voters
in this country are
looking for a completely new direction. They’re not looking to right a
ship by plugging up a couple of holes; they’re looking to build a brand
ship, to carry everyone. It’s not enough to return to an eight-year period in
which we fixed the deficit problem and started repairing the economy, but we did little that was actually bold. Voters
are thinking we need a whole new way of looking at government.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign doesn’t get that. They’re
still possessed of the mindset that the neocons have been winning elections because they
were neocons, and voters have been adopting neocon philosophy, which is
complete nonsense. Neocons have been winning because their minions are passionate about
their candidates, while everyone else — about 75% of the electorate — is quite dispassionate about Democrats.
Being wonky and knowing a lot about policy is not
how Democrats win elections.
Democrats win elections by appealing to the better nature of a majority
of the
electorate. Why would anyone think a majority of American voters, who
are trying to juggle jobs, family, and bills, care about every
candidate’s stand on every single issue, and their exact plan for
dealing with it? Democrats — including their latest victim, Hillary
Clinton — have been losing elections under DLC leadership because
Democrats who ran spent all of their time obsessing over individual
policies, but failed to demonstrate an actual belief in anything, for
fear of
offending someone. Democratic and most independent voters don’t
actually pay as much attention to negative campaigning as they do the response to it. The response must be
forceful and reflect a principled belief system, and not just a reaction. When
Barack Obama was talking to people about hope, people were listening and connecting.
When Hillary and Bill Clinton berated such talk, they demonstrated
their political tone deafness to voters. The fact that none of the
"experts" on Hillary’s campaign team called her on it and told her to
stop is testament to why she lost.

Basically, Hillary Clinton lost because her handlers
don’t understand
how politics actually works. She could have kept 95% of the money she
paid Mark Penn, and I could have made her understand this in a couple
of hours. It’s not a difficult concept. Most voters don’t sit by the
television and watch the news all day, and  listen to every attack
the right wing
promulgates. They look and listen to the campaigns almost peripherally,
and develop an overall impression of candidates. They vote based on the
candidate that comes across as the most positive; the one who seems
most in tune with their needs. They assume a candidate is
“competent” and “ready on day one,” so that’s not a hiring criterion.
At this moment in history, voters are looking for a new sheriff to come
in and clean up the
town; they not looking for an accountant to come in and fix the books.

Clinton had plenty of time to right the ship that was her campaign,
but she continued to listen to her people, even as it became obvious
that her people were
incapable of changing course, because their political tinnitus wouldn’t
them to do so. In fact, she’s still listening to them, which is sad. At any time, Clinton could have adopted the rhetoric of
hope and profound change in vision voters long for sometime before Super Tuesday, and she still could have blown Obama out of the
water. She had the name recognition, she had the political legacy, and she had
the stones to pull off something like that. 

But her DLC-led campaign staff
instead led her into a series of foolish attacks on Obama. The result –
which would
have been predictable to anyone with even the most modest political
instincts –
was more damaging to her than to Obama. You see, it was a Democratic
primary, and Democrats respond differently to attacks than Republicans.
Republicans attack because their overall goal is to keep people away
from the
polls in a general election. They intend to poison the electoral well
enough to make as many voters as possible opt out of the system, and
stay away from the polls on election day. It
doesn’t work in a Democratic primary, because voters – are you ready
for this,
Hillary people? – have another Democrat to choose, if they wish. By
adopting Republican-style tactics, Hillary actually encouraged more
people to vote for Obama. 

In short, nothing about the Clinton campaign strategy made any sense to the average Democratic voter.
Did they really expect a majority of Democrats to get excited about her because she was a woman and she was
competent? Did they really think her negatives, which have always been
high, would suddenly drop when she started attacking Obama, a fellow Democrat? 

Like I said, as strong as a candidate as Barack Obama is, it
was always possible for Hillary Clinton to put him away just after
Super Tuesday, except for the negative attacks. Well, that and the fact
that her campaign people had no strategy beyond Super
Tuesday. Nor did they seem to know what to do about caucuses; they seemed to be surprised by the concept, even though the caucus is a much older method of choosing a nominee than primary elections. Basically, while Hillary was pleading her competence, her people were demonstrating their incompetence. Not a good combination for winning over voters.

One of the reasons the DLC led Democrats to a
series of losses during the 20 years in which they held power, was this
strange idea that they could predict which states they could
concentrate on, and they funneled gobs of money into them, and ignore everyone else. Again, listen to Hillary’s complaints about Obama, and you can see how tone deaf she is, politically. Look at her
campaign’s assertion that Obama mostly won states Democrats will
never win in November. This is a DLC stratagem, folks, and it’s why Democrats
didn’t do well throughout the South and West while the DLC held power. It’s also why, despite his enormous perceived popularity, Bill Clinton never received more than 50% of the vote. This is as a profoundly stupid idea; if
Democrats compete in 50 states, they have a shot at winning in 50
states. if they only compete in the 25 they think they can win, then
they run the risk of coming up short if a few of them go to the
Republicans.  There’s nothing the matter with Kansas, except that Democrats tend to ignore it.

This strange idea that they
should focus on what they think they can win, and ignore everything
else, is partly what sank the Clinton campaign. They focused everything
they had on Super Tuesday, and nothing after. They
had absolutely no backup plan. They worked from the arrogant belief
that it would be locked up, and she’d be able to
coast until the general election. This is the same arrogant strategy
that handed
Republicans control of Congress in 1994, and kept them there until
2006, when a “50-state strategy” was adopted, and they were finally ousted. Funny, isn’t it?
Howard Dean runs in all 50 states and Democrats take Congress. Obama adopts a
50-state (57-state, Barack?) primary strategy and beats back the strongest Democratic political
machine in more than a half century. Yet, Hillary’s people blame the press,
they blame a vein of sexism running through the country, they blame everyone but themselves.

Before I finish, I have to mention fundraising.
Hillary Clinton had a huge corporate political machine behind her, and
was incredibly adept at hogging as much corporate money as possible.
She killed every other candidate when it came to corporate fundraising over the course of
several years. But overall, when it came to fundraising, Obama the political neophyte showed her
how it should be done. Howard Dean started this trend, and anyone with
good political instincts would have picked up on it; yet another sign
that the Clinton campaign suffered from a lack of political instinct.

Now, I am one of that rare breed; a liberal who
thinks public financing of political campaigns is not only unnecessary,
but a bad idea. We should enforce limits, and outlaw  practices such as bundling,
but I don’t care if a candidate spends $1 billion, if they receive that
money through ten million people donating $100 each, on average. There’s no corruption in such a system.

Hillary received tons of money from corporate and lobbying interests. Most of Obama’s money came from
individual donors — he’s closing in on 2 million separate donors —
who gave far less than the maximum, which means he can tap those 2
million people again for even more, and possibly find 2 million more
people to give him $100-200. His instincts told him that small
donations from a huge number of people were a more dependable revenue
source than pumping a few hundred thousand donors for the maximum, and he was right. Once more, you have to question the political instincts of people who seem to be completely unaware that voters are hypersensitive to anything that smacks or corruptibility in a politician right now. When given a choice between a candidate who looks as if she’s in the pockets of large corporation, or one who looks as if he’s above that, Democrats will almost always choose the latter. And once more; this was a Democratic primary.

I would love to see a woman president someday. In fact, I have said for years that Barbara Mikulski would make an awesome president, if it were possible to get her elected in the first place. And I am not a Hillary basher. Hillary Clinton did not lose because everyone else is sexy, or because the media was hard on her (which is ridiculous, of course; she’s received a free pass for about six years by now). Hillary Clinton lost because she tried to adopt cartoonish right wing Republican campaign tactics in a Democratic primary election system, and because she listened to campaign staff who have dubious political skills and pretty much undetectable political instincts.

Not winning the presidency is not the end of the world, of course; only 43 people in history have ever won the damn thing.  What is frightening is that, even at the end, such a skilled politician still seems to have no idea why she lost.

And that, ultimately, is why she lost.


Hillary Clinton for President — A Post-Mortem — 5 Comments

  1. Excellent analysis. If Hillary exits gracefully (I think she’s right to see this out through June 3rd, give SD and MT their chance to part of this), her fight could ultimately be seen as a net plus for the party. It dominated the headlines, lead to massive organizing efforts on both sides, and allowed Obama to see his weaknesses early enough to fix them. But interestingly one has to wonder what would have happened if California hadn’t moved their primary up. If California were also voting June 3rd, think of how big THAT would be!

  2. OK, I’ve finished reading. I like it, and I agree with most of it. Enough that I posted a link to it from my own blog, http://www.liamjohnson.net
    I’ve never figured out “trackback” though, so I wasn’t able to get it listed there.

  3. The piece I referenced today on SM’s LiveBlog that I keep meaning to write disagrees with your first paragraph.
    I am extremely disheartened by the Clintons. I have been an ardent supporter of theirs for many years. I felt he was a great President and was initially quite hopeful that she would represent a return to some of the great policies, and great times, of his era.
    But there is a certain pain in growing up, in peering behind the curtain and finding out that the Wizard isn’t all he’s been represented to be, and this political campaign as removed the chrome and the paint from my heroes and revealed the rot beneath, and it makes me truly sick to my stomach.
    I agree with much of what you have to say, but right now I’m still reeling from her invocation of assassination today in the midst of yet one more half-truth justification for her continued presence in this race.
    I’ll stop now, and maybe write this up on my own blog. But thanks for pointing me to this piece. I should finish reading it now, the first paragraph just brought these feelings roaring forward again.

  4. I agree with Rich — well done, Milt; I was actually diappointed when I got to the end because this piece drew me in and held me start to finish, and I was sorry to see it end!
    At some point, HRC will start blaming the blameworthy — those on her campaign staff. Sadly, it’s starting to look like that won’t happen until AFTER the convention…