Saturday, June 7, 2008

Framing the discussion

I have so many Hillary topics, but I wanted to write them as analytical, not elegiac. So some brief thoughts before her speech today.

I think, and hope, that Democratic Obama-supporters will finally believe what I have believed, that Hillary is not a vicious, self-interested party-splitter. In the March 17 issue of Time, David Plouffe of the Obama campaign said, "The Clinton campaign strategy is simply going to be to try to run a scorched-earth campaign, which would be catastrophic for the party." I will honor how smart this was: Obama's team demonized Hillary by addressing process rather than content (or by nitpicking). They hoped in fact that the fear of dividing the party would cause voters to choose Obama (because he wasn't the party-divider, Hillary was). And I'm sure in many ways it worked. Certainly this idea was parroted by pundits in the media and in coffee shops.

Once again: I think this was clever. And ironic. In a year when the Democratic candidates rewrote the history books not just on gender and race but on process, Obama's campaign, a campaign whose content invoked hope, figured out how to get the dimension of fear into voter's minds. We Democrats feared that this particular break in process would cause Democrats to lose in November. Even very intelligent Democrats were so frightened that they didn't see the hope embedded in the dual campaign.

Hillary's process has not feared having two candidates who command powerful loyalty. As far as I know, she never accused Obama of splitting the party. (Ironically, and to her detriment, she in fact invoked fear in more traditional ways.) We should never sell her short: Hillary can and will take the loyalty she commands and use it for good. (And I have no doubt, had results gone the other way, that Obama would have used it for good as well.)

I'm sad that Democrats who repeated this fear began to write off Hillary. Listening to her speech to AIPAC on June 4 (in tears), I was reminded that she is a powerful and effective speaker who will absolutely support the party. And, once we hear her speech today (in tears), I look forward to Obama finding another way to run an inspiring campaign on hope and still find any way possible, including fear, to win in November.

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