Jonathan Chait at the New Republic believes Hillary Clinton plans to win the Presidential nomination at all costs, even at the price of wrecking the Democratic Party, because she can do it no other way. Dick Morris agrees with the assessment and so does Michael Barone. What does it mean for the Democratic Party?
Chait has the seen the Clinton battle plan and he's terrified.
The morning after Tuesday's primaries, Hillary Clinton's campaign released a memo titled "The Path to the Presidency." I eagerly dug into the paper, figuring it would explain how Clinton would obtain the Democratic nomination despite an enormous deficit in delegates. Instead, the memo offered a series of arguments as to why Clinton should run against John McCain - i.e., "Hillary is seen as the one who can get the job done" - but nothing about how she actually could. Is she planning a third-party run? Does she think Obama is going to die? The memo does not say.
The reason it doesn't say is that Clinton's path to the nomination is pretty repulsive. She isn't going to win at the polls. ... Clinton's path to the nomination, then, involves the following steps: kneecap an eloquent, inspiring, reform-minded young leader who happens to be the first serious African American presidential candidate (meanwhile cementing her own reputation for Nixonian ruthlessness) and then win a contested convention by persuading party elites to override the results at the polls.
Dick Morris, never at a loss for a good turn of phrase notes the only way Hillary can win is to rerun Chicago, 1968 in Denver: "kindle a civil war by denying the nomination to the man who earned the most elected delegates".
Michael Barone also observes that Hillary's "only plausible path to the nomination is to win a majority of super-delegates (party and public officials) and, perhaps, to reverse the party's decision disqualifying the Michigan and Florida delegations -- i.e., overruling the voters in one case and changing the rules after the game has been played in the other". But Barone goes beyond agreement with Chait and Morris and crucially identifies the strategy behind this scorched earth strategy.
Chait, by appealing to Hillary's decency ("Go already!") and Morris by invoking the arithmetic of the party rules ("It's over") are really calling on sources of authority that the Clintons neither have nor intend to recognize. Only Barone understands what's happening. Hillary has changed the rules, or more accurately, shredded the rulebook. Like Saddam Hussein after US forces took Baghdad, she has no intention of surrendering after the enemy has taken her capital city no matter what it says in the rulebook. Chait and Morris can continue to believe in the political Geneva Convention, but the game has now changed to 'take no prisoners'.
Barone's key insight is that both Hillary and Obama are now in a position to hold the entire party hostage unless their ambitions are served. "Both candidates have an incentive to attack on grounds that will weaken the other in the general election, as Clinton has already started to do with her 'red phone' ad." In other words, Obama can win the nomination, mayhap -- but Hillary can make sure he wins only at the cost of a subsequent loss to John McCain. If Obama wins in Denver, the Dems lose in November. The Hillary Way or No Way. Osama bin Laden would understand the strategy perfectly.
Ironically the situation is symmetric. Michael Barone observes that "the March 4 exit polls show increasing percentages of Democratic primary voters unwilling to accept the rejection of their candidate." Both Hillary and Obama have the power to wreck the Democratic Party unless they get their way. To turn back now would mean betraying the myriads who backed them to this point. And so each will continue to the bitter end. It is really the political dynamic of the putsch.
This situation has come about because the Democratic party is no longer about principle but personality. Because 21st century liberalism is bereft of real ideas it has become vulnerable to the cult of personality. Ideology has now been demoted to rhetoric or talking points. Who really believes that either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton are determined to preserve the national security of the United States? But anyone can readily see they are devoted to preserving the interests of themselves. That's what counts. And as Morris and Chait will now see, it's all that counts. 'How could she?' Chait wonders. The Clintons always could. It's just that he was the last to know.
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