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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Matthew Yglesias on her speech:

I'm hearing that some people feel Clinton spoke too much about herself and her campaign in her speech. I think that's totally wrong. It's the very fact that the speech dwelled at length on the Clinton movement, its meaning, and its accomplishments that it becomes an effective endorsement of Obama. Absent that stuff, it's just another speech about why you should vote for Barack Obama. With the Clinton-specific stuff, it becomes specifically a speech about how, given the outcome of the primary, the logic next step for Clinton supporters is to join Clinton herself in supporting Obama.

Far from an egocentric outburst, the talking about herself and her supporters made the speech the great speech that it was and helped a lot, I think, to break down the mutual barriers of bitterness that had built up. Something nominally more focused on Obama might well have come off as half-hearted. What she delivered was perfectly sincere and utterly in keeping with the main themes of her campaign, but also led to the desired conclusion. I think it was very skillfully put together.

The positive side
of HRC staying in so long:

Critics talk a lot about the costs of her perseverance -- the blows to party unity, the drain on the wallets of Democratic supporters. But Clinton's tireless march through the states and territories provided something far more valuable than good Democratic vibrations or excess funds: She (with ample help from her inspiring opponent) engaged record numbers of Americans in an addictive serialized political spectacle called democracy.

Seemingly every week there were new plot twists, fresh characters, and outrageous sound bites to be picked over. We made predictions and watched them get blasted apart; we picked favorites, and then our feelings for the characters changed. Amazingly, we managed to follow along, even though the narrative included conversations we don't usually like to have: conversations about race, gender, and class discrimination.

Mostly, what Hillary Clinton did, through sheer, uncut, and occasionally delusional gumption, was give us a primary season that was as compelling as it was maddening. She made politics the most exciting show on television, the most readable story in the newspaper, the most heart-pounding race at the track. It was great! Better than Survivor or any division series! For six sweet, difficult months, presidential politics has been the greatest game in town, drawing fans who might otherwise never have tuned in.

On gender issues:
Two takes on how her campaign brought sexism out into the open: here and here
This article puts a more positive spin on it, saying because of her campaign female politicians are already being treated more seriously

Ezra Klein makes an important point about Bill Clinton's presidency:

Clinton was assumed dead in the primaries, when the Gennifer Flowers story broke and his numbers collapsed in New Hampshire. Allegations about draft dodging were supposed to doom him in the general. But Clinton fought back and endured both scandals. He didn't just win, he survived.

As a political performance, it was thrilling. But it was often defensive. And that pattern continued throughout his career: Clinton proved masterful in repelling the onslaught when his back was to the wall, but the near-death experiences and unexpected comebacks that defined his career failed to provide him a solid base from which he could systematically build a movement or sell his beliefs. Clinton's political genius manifested itself not in the construction of a greater and grander Democratic Party, or a new and expanded progressive majority, but in the sheer fact of his survival, and his ability to govern competently, and at times brilliantly, against such odds.

Clinton's time in office had its successes and its failures. But politically speaking, Clinton enjoyed the successes and the party often endured the failures.

Whitewater may have been a specious scandal trumped up by his antagonists, but Lewinsky was not. And however unfair the Republican Party's decision to attack Clinton's private life, it was deeply selfish for Clinton to hamstring his own presidency, and all that he could have accomplished, by offering up such ammunition to his enemies.

Clinton's reputation, however, came not in spite of these mistakes and losses, but because of them. After the disastrous midterms, he was expected to be a one-term president. Instead, he battled back to soundly trounce Bob Dole in 1996. After Lewinsky, many thought he'd be forced to resign. Instead, he endured the jeers and embarrassments and ended his term a reasonably popular president. These were not only impressive performances; they were dramatic ones. And they served as the foundation for Clinton's reputation as an indomitable political mastermind.

But on a crassly political level, the Democratic Party that closed out the Clinton years was not necessarily stronger than the party that had preceded it. It had benefited from some of the ideological fights Clinton won and some of the issues he had taken off the table (notably welfare), but it had also been harmed by some of his behavior, weakened by missed opportunities, and marginalized in Congress for the first time in a generation.

In light of this record, Clinton's behavior during the primary has not been out of ordinary at all. His political talent has, historically, been for getting himself elected. He's just not that good at getting others elected.

In all of this, there is a lesson for another politician who is being heralded as the great political talent of his generation: Barack Obama. Clinton was not, at the end of the day, able to use his political talents to build up his party. He was a good president, but he would've been much greater had he been able to construct and activate a progressive movement that could have pushed for broader legislative change. He believed, too deeply, that voters had given him their hopes and dreams, and that those hopes and dreams depended on his survival. But one man is a weak vessel for the aspirations of millions. There is strong evidence that Obama understands this. His background as a community organizer and his emphasis, in this campaign, on field work and movement building, suggest that he's attempting to build something bigger than himself. If he succeeds, then he will be a political talent the likes of which Democrats have indeed not seen in generations. If he fails, then he better hope he's got Clinton's talent for political survival.

Here's another song about Obama (i think it's kinda lame, but whatever)

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