Digby was one of the very first blogs I ever started reading on the interwoobs – incisive, intelligent, observant and often darkly funny. So it’s unfortunate that I have to point out that her recent post is, unfortunately, mostly wrong.
I think the thing that has most exacerbated the fervent Clinton supporters’ frustration, and frankly astonished me a bit, has been this endless drumbeat since February for her to drop out even though she was still winning primaries. Nobody should expect a politician who is still winning to quit. It makes no sense. It’s not in their DNA. Certainly, in a race this close it made no sense whatsoever. I don’t think that line has helped Obama (and I think it’s why the campaign itself has been so careful not to publicly flog it.)
In 84 and 88, Jackson was seen as a potential party wrecker too and in 88 he took his historic campaign, in which he won 11 contests, all the way to the convention. He made a very famous speech which he ended with the chant “Keep Hope Alive,” which could have easily been construed as wishing for Dukakis to fail so he could get another bite at the apple (something that people are accusing Clinton of already.) But it wasn’t.
This is a terrible comparison, because nobody has simply been complaining about Clinton campaigning per se. Most Obama supporters will agree right off the bat that Clinton had every right to waste a shitload of money trying to get a nomination that, after the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4th, would be nearly mathematically impossible to get. Hey, Hillary Clinton is fucking rich. If she wants to personally rejuvenate the economy by stimulating it directly, more power to her.
The problem Obama supporters have – and it’s entirely valid – is that Clinton’s campaign, by its own admission and design, went negative.
In 1988, Jesse Jackson gave a speech about keeping hope alive. What he didn’t do was suggest that Michael Dukakis was disenfranchising voters. He didn’t suggest – repeatedly – that Michael Dukakis was an inferior candidate to George H.W. Bush. He didn’t compare the American electoral system to a third-world nation, didn’t repeatedly question Dukakis’ patriotism, didn’t subtly suggest that hey he couldn’t be sure that Dukakis wasn’t a Muslim, didn’t allow his campaigners to suggest that Dukakis was only winning because he was white, didn’t try to portray Dukakis as an out-of-touch elitist, didn’t accuse the Dukakis campaign of engaging in active racism in the face of all available evidence otherwise.
The reason people have called upon Clinton to drop out for the good of the party and the election isn’t because she merely chose to continue campaigning. It’s because her tactics were, intentionally or not, poisoning the well. Her campaign and she herself personally have aided and abetted any number of right-wing framing jobs on Obama.
And that’s why comparing Hillary Clinton to Jackson in 1988 or John Edwards in 2004 or any other number of candidates who stayed in the race long after it became evident they weren’t going to win is a false equivalency. Those individuals put party before their own self-interest. Hillary Clinton did not.