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Tuesday, November 11, 2008


This article makes an interesting Clinton as Nader argument.
Key bits:

The persistent weakness of American liberalism is its fixation with rights and procedures at any cost to efficiency and common sense. Democrats' reluctance to push Clinton out of the race is the perfect expression of that delicate sensibility.

For the most part, though, Clintonites have presented her continued campaign as a fulfillment of rights. Historian (and TNR alum) David Greenberg recently placed Obama's uplifting style in the tradition of the ineffectual liberals that Arthur Schlesinger derided as "doughfaces" ("Double Negative," April 9). As Greenberg wrote, "A well-placed concern not to let ends justify means has often led to a misplaced sacrifice of ends to means." By contrast, he situated Clinton as an heir to "FDR and the New Deal's lieutenants [who] respected fair play and fair procedures, but they put results first."

I think the analogy is apt, but Greenberg has the protagonists backward. It's those defending Clinton's campaign who angrily wave away any practical considerations. In an editorial bolstering Clinton's prerogative to stay in the race, The Washington Post insisted, "No doubt the Democrats have gotten themselves into a fix with rules that may leave the final decision to unelected superdelegates--but why is the answer to that less democracy?"

Anyone who tried to talk sense into a Ralph Nader supporter in 2000 probably heard some version of this rationale. Giving the voters more candidates is democracy, man. The decision to run is an act of civic virtue that may not be analyzed for its real-world effects. Nader himself dismissed Leahy's call for Clinton to withdraw as "political bigotry." He urged, "Listen to your own inner citizen First Amendment voice. This is America. Just like every other citizen, you have a right to run."

Then you have the millions of Clinton supporters who have come to see her campaign as the literal embodiment of feminism. "Now Clinton's methodical, dogged history of work for the Democratic Party is treated just like the methodical, dogged histories of so many women in the workplace," writes syndicated columnist Marie Cocco. "She must step aside to take the smaller office, with the lesser title and the lower pay to make room for the younger guy with the thinner resume."

In the same column, Cocco concedes, "Maybe it is true that Clinton has no realistic way to win the nomination." That's quite a concession! That is, if you consider the presidency an instrument for legislation and policy change, rather than a vehicle for Hillary Clinton's self-actualization and the civic expression of the South Dakota Democratic primary electorate.

Schlesinger once described the doughface tradition thusly: "Politics becomes, not a means of getting things done, but an outlet for private grievances and frustrations." Is there any better description for Clinton's rationale?

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