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Careful with that ax, Hill

Man, is there any right-wing talking point that the Clinton campaign won't use against Obama? First they released those "OBAMA IS A SECRET ISLAMOFASCIST" photos, now this: the ol' 'liberal media bias' cavil. From a Clinton.

I've been trying to give Hillary the benefit of the doubt for a long time and sacrifice the vague distaste I felt during her husband's presidency because until the Obama surge started, I thought she was the most electable. And I've really tried to see her campaign's upsides, resisted the standard insider narrative, even given her money (to my great regret, as they now call me about twice a day). But the more she embraces an opposition framework for an internal struggle, the more she alienates me.

One of the things that's always irked me about many elements of the left -- from the gay rights movement to third-wave feminism to the way that the Democratic Party has campaigned since at least 1988 -- is that it lets its opposition define the terms of the debate, and creates its metaphors and arguments and narratives within that oppositional framework, instead of creating a counter-framework and defining their own terms within which the debate takes place. It's incredibly, and depressingly, common, and I think it's a big reason that the left is in retreat in American, and has been for about 20 years. Leftist movements elsewhere have had success largely by refusing to fight on the fields defined by their opposition.

In the campaign context, this is especially self-defeating: if you choose the enemy's terms and conditions to use against your own internal opponents, you're going to look weak and ineffectual if you reject those same methods when they're used against you by the real enemy.

Comments

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picodulce
Feb. 27th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
[clap clap].

everybody wants to win, but she's moved from iffy to unseemly to unbelievably nasty. not that she should roll over and die, but making fun of optimism and whining about media bias is a good way to become excommunicated from (semi)-leftist politics. seriously, how is she going to operate in a new washington when obama (or mccain; i don't think he can win but i thought people would see bush was an idiot too) is pres?

Edited at 2008-02-27 04:12 pm (UTC)
archaica
Feb. 27th, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
Citing unfavorable treatment on SNL has got to be a low point for any politician.
ludickid
Feb. 27th, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
Even Nixon didn't complain about Laugh-In.
editrix26
Feb. 27th, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
I've not been impressed with her at all (and never thought her electable; waaaaaay too much of this country hates her irrationally, never mind those of us who have legitimate reasons to dislike her) but she seems increasingly desperate. I found the whole denounce/reject discussion last night entirely too much a semantics game.

In a way, she's reminding me a lot of Nerisse from "The Wire," as she seems to have this attitude that it's her turn, and she'll make it very hard for anyone who steps in her way.
picodulce
Feb. 27th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
Nerisse is way more electable.
editrix26
Feb. 27th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
Ha, good point.
calamityjon
Feb. 27th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
But the more she embraces an opposition framework for an internal struggle, the more she alienates me.

Boy, now you feel just like her constituents, her staff, her fellow senators and her party leadership.
ludickid
Feb. 27th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
You think her staff? I sort of get the impression that they're the last people in America who are still in the "Every move a right one!" mode about her campaign to date.

Otherwise, yeah. She and Reid and Pelosi can sit around after they lose the nomination wondering what they did wrong.
picodulce
Feb. 27th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
someone doesn't like pelosi and reid? then how do they keep effing getting elected?!
thehighhat
Feb. 27th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
You're absolutely right about how the Ds let the opposition define the terms. I wonder if there's a psychological component to that. One of the Slate writers says she did a Meyers-Briggs analysis of the candidates, and she claims that Obama is an ENFP, which would make him one of the only Presidential candidates in recent US history who thinks abstractly enough to reframe questions on the fly. Of course, it's usually aides who come up with PR strategies, and it seems unlikely that no major Ds would employ PR guys capable of abstract thought. Also, the major R candidates aren't usually abstract thinkers, either, but guys like Karl Rove are.
eatsoylentgreen
Feb. 27th, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
"lets its opposition define the terms of the debate"

agreed
ninafarina
Feb. 27th, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
Fair enough to all that, but if I hear one more person on the internets or in person preach to me about how the politics of hope are what will defeat the Republican machine in 2008 I AM GOING TO CUT A BITCH.

I think Obama's pretty brilliant. So I think some of the stupid rhetoric is going to go away when he has the nomination wrapped up. But I just. can't. wait.

Neither one of them could beat McCain right now. I hate to be a negative nelly, but I really feel like doing things to all these rainbows and choirs singing hallelujah that even Mukasey would frown upon. We have to be specific, and we have to work hard, and we can't take anything for granted, because our country popularly elected George W. Bush after learning about Abu Ghraib. So, yes, Hillary's oppositional, but the opposition we face is far too profound to assume certain truths about the war to be self-evident to most of the country.
ludickid
Feb. 27th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC)
I agree with you that it's gonna be a battle, and it will certainly take a lot more than flowery rhetoric (as big a fan as I am of flowery rhetoric) to beat the GOP in 2008, but I'm not convinced that McCain should be considered the favorite. Half the GOP faithful absolutely can't stand the guy, and while that won't necessarily mean anything in the long run given the Republican proclivity to toe the line once the candidate has been selected*, I think there'll be less turnout than usual, he won't get many of the so-called independent voters, and he sure hasn't shown any ability to energize the base -- the religious right and the hardcore tax conservatives despise him. In terms of early polling, Anydemocrat has consistently beaten McCain, too (although early polling, as the last eight years have taught us, don't mean shit).

It's definitely no time to get complacent, and the very fact that everyone's so energized over Obama makes me hellaciously nervous because I never believe anything's easy. But if I was allowed to have some audacious hope, it would be that this will be a replay of 1992, where the GOP was so uninspired by its candidate that the charismatic Democrat took advantage. We'll see.

*: Although the bigwigs were all denying this when I was at CPAC -- the general feeling amongst the hardcore right was that there was simply NO WAY, regardless of this tendency to toe the line, that they would vote for that quasi-liberal phony McCain -- I think when the time comes, they'll do it, like they did with Bush 1 (who they also hated) back in '88.
ninafarina
Feb. 27th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
The LA Times/Bloomberg found otherwise, sadly.

Which dovetails suspiciously with the fact that McCain has stopped campaigning for the primary and started for the general.

To be fair, Obama/Clinton's hands are all tied up still in the primary, so it could well turn again once the Democratic efforts/money are focused. And it's just one poll. But clearly, the election is not a gimme. I think the Republicans will fall in line for McCain -- grudgingly, but they will. It's not the hard-core conservatives we need to worry about, it's the independents who love the idea of a [tax cutting] maverick. He's going to nominate a moderate for the VP spot, just you watch.
ludickid
Feb. 28th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)
Bah! WHY MUST YOU SHATTER MY ILLUSIONS, LOS ANGELES TIMES?

I was going to argue with you over McCain's VP choice (I figured he'd pick some right-wing southerner to bring out the base), but then I remembered that I predicted the election would be Hillary vs. Fred Thompson. So much for my prognostification.
johnnylemonhead
Feb. 27th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)

It's definitely no time to get complacent, and the very fact that everyone's so energized over Obama makes me hellaciously nervous because I never believe anything's easy. But if I was allowed to have some audacious hope, it would be that this will be a replay of 1992, where the GOP was so uninspired by its candidate that the charismatic Democrat took advantage.


my thoughts exactly. i watched the debate last night (and, really, most political coverage now) with this sinking feeling of dread, nervousness, and nausea. echoing ninafarina's comments, the waiting is killing me. i worry that the more they bicker (it's five months until the convention!), the more opportunities for people to change their minds and just fall in line with pulling the lever for mccain. i dunno, i really worry that if obama gets the nomination when all is said and done - that's a lot of momentum and fight to keep on going until november. thus far, he's done a great job of it, but who knows?
archaica
Feb. 27th, 2008 07:26 pm (UTC)
"Fight the real enemy!"
Yeah, agreed. I hope neither candidate gets too bogged down in attacking each other to realize what's at stake, and how the GOP is far nastier an opponent than either of them could be.
ludickid
Feb. 27th, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)
Re: "Fight the real enemy!"
That's my whole point -- even if Hillary successfully deploys the tactics of the right against Obama (which I don't think she can), she'll just find herself a victim of them once she gets the nomination, and the GOP is much, much, much better at it. You can't win against these fuckers using the tactics they define.
archaica
Feb. 27th, 2008 07:31 pm (UTC)
Re: "Fight the real enemy!"
Oh, totally agreed. Obviously her years of experience taking hits from Republicans have taught her only how to use their tactics, and not how bankrupt and destructive and moronic they are. She's taken away only the worst part of the possible lessons to be learned from her long years of torment. Not exactly a banner for "experience".
kudaspeaks
Feb. 27th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
Fair enough to all that, but if I hear one more person on the internets or in person preach to me about how the politics of hope are what will defeat the Republican machine in 2008 I AM GOING TO CUT A BITCH.

Go ahead and get to cutting. I have to ask why you don't think hope as a motif, which historically has KILLED, would get slaughtered in the general against a short, elderly guy with no charisma and a shitload of baggage.

This nation went ga-ga for Reagan on the strength of some pretty postcard pics of the Napa Valley and a reassuring baritone, do you think that kind of simplistic appeal to optimism doesn't work if the Dems do it? Bill Clinton sauntered into the White House on a pink fluffy cloud of charisma and a thin resume against an incumbent who wasn't doing particularly badly as president. That's exactly what works with the general electorate and that's exactly why Obama is cleaning both Clinton's and McCain's clock in the polls. See also: JFK.

I understand where you are coming from, I think, but "America: Time to Do Our Chores" is a lousy campaign slogan.
ninafarina
Feb. 27th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC)
No cutting, yo. This is not the stupidity I was referencing. Now, if I made a comment about how the campaign should be cognizant about how the Republicans can yet use the war to their advantage, and you answered me by saying Ronald Reagan used great photos of the Napa Valley and he won, then it would be the kind of stupidity I've encountered elsewhere and am railing against.

I'm frustrated, and I know Leonard's not trying to beat the dead horse of the Clinton campaign for no reason, but I sure don't want anyone taking from a criticism of Clinton that the Republican tactics are so obviously bad we should just ignore them. Because I disagree that this race is going to be a cakewalk, and as per the above, the polls are starting to show that as well.
kudaspeaks
Feb. 27th, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC)
See, I think one of the main problems with the Clinton campaign is that she hired the party regulars who are...kinda terrible at this. They are really flinchy, possibly from too many years on the receiving end of one body blow after another, and they react poorly, which somehow gives credence to whatever abominable lie or fearmongering nonsense is being bandied about. Or, and this is even worse, the pitiful nature of the Democratic Party response becomes the story and the original AL or FN is conveniently forgotten.

I think Obama might have the smartest strategists going in this election and my hope is that his campaign doesn't take onboard the jettisoned Clinton staff if he gets the nod. I think the cooler heads prevail strategy would totally ace a McCain mudslinging fest, because McCain already is known as a hothead who sputters petulantly when disagreed with. Plus, dude looks like Mr. Potter and that's not good in the midst of a banking crisis.

So, I agree, being incredibly prepared for whatever shit is going to come flying through the transom is of paramount importance (and I'm sure is occurring behind the scenes as we speak) but cards close to the vest. Know your enemy, choose your moment, don't throw poop back. HRC made a mistake by leading with the "bring it on, motherfuckers, I can take it and dish it out too" tactic. It reminds voters that they don't like politics because it makes everybody mean and mad. Public face: Smiles, everyone, we're the nice, pretty, smart people and we're here to help.
ludickid
Feb. 28th, 2008 02:00 am (UTC)
I certainly don't think the race will be a cakewalk, but it occurs to me that if nothing else, Hillary busting this stuff out against Obama might be good training for when the GOP starts doing it to him in earnest. We won't see a repeat of Cincinnati, where McCain quickly distanced himself from the people talking nasty shit about Obama; if Obama gets the nom and a decent poll lead, McCain will embrace that same nastiness so quick he'll break a hip.
ninafarina
Feb. 28th, 2008 03:50 am (UTC)
That distancing was hilarious. Hi-larious. I do not have cable teevee, so I've only seen bits and pieces of the debates, but I sure as hell saw McCain chuckling and practically grabbing his crotch when George Stephanopoulos asked him back in January what the deal was with the attack ads against Romney.

You must not doubt my powers of political prognostication. As you well know, I am right about American Idol approximately 83.6% of the time.*

* I did predict Hillary last year, though, with a big shrug for the hot mess that was the Republican field. So, that 16.3% error rate can be significant.
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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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