The mask drops to the ground
With Hillary's admission that her trip to Bosnia wasn't exactly the danger-filled mission she made it out to be the contest between her and Barack Obama is degenerating into a matter of pure identity politics. The Washington Post reports the myth:
Hillary Clinton has been regaling supporters on the campaign trail with hair-raising tales of a trip she made to Bosnia in March 1996. In her retelling, she was sent to places that her husband, President Bill Clinton, could not go because they were "too dangerous." When her account was challenged by one of her traveling companions, the comedian Sinbad, she upped the ante and injected even more drama into the story. In a speech earlier this week, she talked about "landing under sniper fire" and running for safety with "our heads down."
But with the discovery of actual video footage of Hillary's trip showing belying her account, the Senator from New York was being left with less and less of a resume to tout. With the evaporation of her credentials there remains only one undeniable argument in favor of electing her: that it's time for America's first woman President. Barck Obama's problems with Jeremiah Wright have left him in an almost analogous position. Once his aura began to dim, and without much of a resume to run on anyway, the residual argument for electing him will increasingly be about healing the scars of past racial injustice.
Thus the two will ultimately wind up campaigning not as themselves but as stereotypes. How did it come to this? In part because of the way the Democratic Party identifies its electoral markets. Segmentation takes place not primarily along lines of policy or belief but on lines of identity. With both Clinton and Obama essentially sharing the same ideological platform each was obliged from the outset to run on their distinguishing characteristics. With the platform held constant or treated simply a cynical talking points, the only variables the candidates could manipulate from the outset were race and gender. And manipulate they did.
The seeds of the current civil war were present from the beginning. But at the start of the campaign this ugly fact was partly hidden by a totally contrived gentility; a studiously high tone that only betrayed the savage instincts straining to get loose. Coalition politics is all about displays of unity precisely because there is none of it; the smiles are there precisely to mask the uneasy truce between the rivals.
Unless Hillary Clinton selflessly withdraws from the race, the eye-gouging, ear-biting, finger-breaking identity wrestling contest will continue all the way to the convention in Denver where all hell is expected to break loose. DNC Disruption '08, a coalition of 'progressive activists' is already surveilling the city, noting the location of television cameras and identifying weak points in security with the same cold precision with which an undertaker measures a corpse for a coffin.
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