Why Clinton Actually Lost

I know Hillary supporters won’t like this, but Pennsylvania sealed the deal for Hillary Clinton, and she will not win the Democratic nomination that she thought of as her birthright just a few months ago. Yes, I know she won by ten points in this relatively conservatively Democratic state. But in order to win by ten points here and in Ohio, she lost whatever positives she might have had going into this election season.

Overall, Hillary Clinton lost this primary race for a very basic reason; she’s not playing the game that needs to be played, while Barack Obama is.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton would make a decent president. I have no doubt that she’s "qualified," whatever that means. But she’s forgotten the first lesson of politics; in order to do great things as a politician, you have to first win election. And in order to win election, you have to do several things. In the grand tradition of Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry, she did none of them. In a way, we owe Barack Obama a debt of gratitude for finding this out before we entered the general election with Hillary Clinton as our nominee.

The first rule of politics is, if you’re going to win election, you have to trust your instincts, more so than a bunch of self-described "experts." One of the things that has driven me crazy about the Democratic Party for 20 years is that so many of the best candidates put their trust in political "experts" who seem to have no political sense at all. For example, would someone please explain to me why Bob Shrum continues to find work? I’ve met Bob Shrum; he’s a nice guy. But his political instincts are crap. And I still cannot understand the appeal of the DLC, and its so-called "brain trust."

The DLC strategy is a losing strategy, as evidenced by the fact that under it, Republican neocons have pretty much run the show, despite the fact that the public doesn’t agree with most of their positions. The only "success’ they had was Bill Clinton, who in my opinion won two elections in spite of the DLC, not because of it. As I have noted before, if the DLC was so great, and their instincts so keen, then why did one of the "best politicians of the 20th century" (Clinton) win twice without ever receiving 50% of the vote? The answer is, the DLC strategy of triangulating on every issue caused viable third party candidacies to pop up, where none should have. Also note that, in spite of Clinton’s immense political skills, he had no coattails, and the GOP took over Congress and kept it during the DLC’s watch. If you want to know why the Democratic Party became "Republican Light"
for many years, they’re the reason, and they’ve been losers ever since.
They do not have their finger on the pulse of the electorate, and they
have a set series of "strategies" that have been shown, time and time
again to not work. 

Hillary Clinton famously paid $10 million to DLC "strategist" and pollster Mark Penn, who has never run a successful presidential campaign. Her top advisors include most of the top people at the DLC, and they have been running Hillary Clinton’s campaign into the ground, as usual, because they are clueless as to the motivation of the electorate in 2008.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is a very unusual election year, for several reasons. there are obvious reasons for this, of course, such as the fact that George W. Bush is the worst president in history, bar none. Also, the incarnation of the Republican Party that has won for the last few decades has been thoroughly discredited. Not only have they been incompetent, they have been corrupt, and the desire for major changes among voters can’t be underestimated. When you have 81% of people polled saying that the United States is on the wrong track, it’s hard to consider yourself a rational human being and conclude that this election is just like the one that Bill Clinton won in 1992. Any pundit who has any credibility at all has figured out that it’s impossible to use past election seasons as a guide to what may happen in 2008. Most of them have thrown out the playbook, because Barack Obama has necessarily rewritten it.

Yet, when you listen to the Clinton campaign’s rhetoric, they all harken back to the past Clinton Administration. The problem with the DLC mindset is the same problem US car companies have; they know one particular thing, and they will wait for the everyone else to come around to their way of thinking. They think they know what works, and they keep doing it over and over, even though they keep losing.  Isn’t that the definition of insanity? This election year is unlike any presidential election year in at least a generation. People are beyond pissed off, they’re embarrassed at what the government has been doing in their name, and they’re sick of hearing the same message over and over. And doesn’t mean they’re just pissed off at Republicans. They want major change in the way Washington works. They want something completely different, and they are finally willing to vote to get it.

That is not to say that Hillary Clinton couldn’t be that agent of change. Hillary Clinton is a good candidate, and would make a good president. But with her campaign’s current mindset , she could never be a great president, because a great president doesn’t govern by polls, but rather, governs by his gut. The American people understand that, which is why the previously unknown Barack Obama has more momentum, and why his lead is insurmountable at this point. He is different, he attracts different people to the polls, and his message is one that we haven’t heard in quite some time.

The sad thing is, Clinton had a major opening after Iowa, and she didn’t take it. Obama was sounding a message of hope and renewal. she could have adopted that theme and made it her own; many successful campaigns have done that in the past. Instead, she ridiculed it, and resorted to Rovian tactics that made Obama’s hopeful message seem that much more appealing. There is a "conventional wisdom" out there that says her negative messages have hurt Obama, but in reality, they have hurt her far more.

The Clinton strategy was too simple and stupid to work, in part because it was built on an arrogance that was wholly misplaced. Hillary Clinton and her people felt entitled to the nomination, and they assumed they would get it. She didn’t feel the message was important, because she was going to ride Bill’s coattails to an easy victory. It was the same sort of arrogance that was also the key to electoral losses by Dukakis, Gore and Kerry, among many others. No matter how entitled you feel you are, you have to convince the voters that you stand for something. policy wonkishness does not turn voters on; voters want someone who engages them and makes them want to vote for them. Voters are sick and tired of voting against other candidates; they want to vote for someone; especially after a disaster like the Bush presidency.

The Clinton strategy was and still is (even after the message’s abject failure) that Hillary Clinton can go into the White House and be competent. Seriously, folks, "ready on day one" is not a slogan for a presidential candidate; it sounds more like the slogan of a landscaping service. In a country facing economic meltdown, a deteriorating government full of Bush cronies, two failed occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a military  that is falling apart as we speak, and a government that hasn’t given a damn about the people at all for eight long years, "competency" simply isn’t something that will inspire people. Returning to the Clinton years might be a good start, but for anyone to think that was sufficient for running a presidential campaign in 2008 doesn’t know which way is up.

People are looking for a different kind of politics this time around; someone who can make them think about things getting better; someone who can not only inspire us, but inspire the rest of the world, as well. Hillary Clinton could speak to that. She could actually win, if she had dropped all of the negativity, and dealt with us positively, and with hope. "I’m competent" isn’t a winner this time. This time, voters want things to change. Not just George Bush, but politics. They want Washington’s attitude to change.

Hillary is losing because she’s not listening to the people. A lot of people vote for her because she’s a known quantity, and they still don’t know Obama all that well, but the fact of the matter is, if she had adopted his tone, rather than ridicule it; if she had sensed the public frustration with the process and refused to campaign negatively, and praised Obama, instead of ridiculing him, she’d be sitting in the catbird’s seat. She’s better known, well liked, and she has a sharp mind. A relative novice like Obama shouldn’t have had a chance.

But he’s winning, because he’s listening to what’s going on out there, and she stopped listening.

Obama won the nomination because he’s a better candidate…

And yes, Hillary, he won. Get over it.

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