March 21, 2008

Such A Card

Clinton's team (and its surrogates) have so successfully played the various divisive resentment and blackmail cards lately that they've created a situation where whomever of Clinton or Obama "wins" the primaries, they'll both lose in some way. In fact, division is pretty much the only effective strategy Clinton has left: Clinton can only win by dividing; Obama can only win by uniting, and they both know it. In contests like this, division always wins, if only by the damage it causes any ultimate winners, especially in a primary season as closely-matched and evenly-spread as this one (where, almost by definition, more than half the relevant primary voters will not especially want whoever wins).

In particular, if Clinton loses, she's already framed that loss so well in terms of a negative identity politics that many of her supporters will resent Obama for not being the "right" identity (whichever that might be), and feel cheated by some version of "the man" (with all the various nuances of that phrase). Her supporters will resentfully mutter (or shout) "we wuz robbed!" and not feel any desire to support Obama because he's just not one of them.

Conversely, if Obama loses, many of his supporters are going to feel deeply repelled by the sort of divisive old-school by-any-means-neccessary tactics and strategies (including some really egregious gender blackmail and coded racial messages) that will help underpin any Clinton "win". Few people are going to believe Clinton if she wins and then starts appealing to a sense of Democratic unity, or gets all inclusive on everyone.

Clinton's the self-annointed old-school establishment candidate, and while neither candidate can do much to effect real change after being elected, Obama might have been able to change the way the election itself worked, which might have been a start. When the primary race began I would have been fairly happy with any of the front-running triumvirate (with obvious caveats about the claustrophobically-narrow choices available in any modern US presidential election); months later, I'm not so sure.

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