As I’ve said repeatedly, I remain a committed uncommitted in the race for the White House. I’ve also been clear, however, that I have serious misgivings about Hillary Clinton. My reasons are largely those expressed by Molly Ivins, as quoted at length in today’s edition of the BuzzFlash Editor’s Blog.
But if I’m cool on Clinton’s candidacy, I’m also far from a rabid opponent: In fact, I think she’d make a good president (although when compared to the incumbent who wouldn’t?). And although I don’t think Clinton would be the Democrats’ strongest candidate this year, I suspect she’d probably still win assuming a fairly united Democratic Party.
But therein, of course, lies the nightmare scenario — an increasingly likely circumstance wherein Clinton wins the nomination, but in the process turns off so many Democrats and independents that she loses in the general election.
Let me be clear: I have no problem with Clinton giving Obama hell. God knows the GOP will give him plenty of it in the general election if he wins the nomination. This is likely to be one of the nastiest campaigns in American history, as the corrupt old guard fights desperately to stave off their inevitable (eventual) extinction.
If Obama can’t take the heat from Clinton now, how can we possibly expect him to withstand the coming firestorm from these Swiftboating professionals?
But it’s one thing to give someone hell, and quite another to do it in a way that leaves scars that can’t be healed. And what I’ve been seeing from the Clinton camp in recent days makes me wonder if they’re prepared to cross that line. Has this become about victory at all costs?
Bill and Hillary don’t like losing — a trait the Democratic Party desperately needs as we approach one of the most important elections in American history. But the party also needs all of the passion the Obama campaign has generated. We need that new generation of energized activists and supporters, not just in 2008, but in building a new progressive majority in the years beyond.
Obama doesn’t have to win to keep this flame alive, but it could well die if he’s beaten by Clinton in the wrong way. And a campaign that features attacks that can even remotely be construed as racist is THE WRONG WAY TIMES INFINITY.
Now, I think Bill Clinton’s words on this issue have been unfairly taken out of context. In fact, I don’t think anything either Bill or Hillary have said in the campaign can fairly be given a raciest spin: but the same can’t be said for the comments of their surrogates. As Josh Marshall noted yesterday:
We seem to be at the point where there are now two credible possibilities. One is that the Clinton campaign is intentionally pursuing a strategy of using surrogates to hit Obama with racially-charged language or with charges that while not directly tied to race nonetheless play to stereotypes about black men. The other possibility is that the Clinton campaign is extraordinarily unlucky and continually finds its surrogates stumbling on to racially-charged or denigrating language when discussing Obama.
This is not the way for Hillary Clinton to win the nomination. And if she does win it this way, it probably won’t end up being worth very much anyway. And in the meanwhile, of course, extraordinary damage will have been done to the progressive movement.