Clinton’s Thin Ice

Reconciliation and analysis have been the leading themes in my writing on the Democratic primaries lately. Once a severe sufferer of Clinton Derangement Syndrome, I have publicly and emotionally eased up on Senator Clinton, and for good reason.

The talk of the town when it comes to the primaries have now centered on two key items; Super Delegates who will decide the Democratic nominee, and a host of Clinton supporters whose true number strength is questionable who have vowed defections and actively working against Obama should he be the nominee.

The latter have come together to paint a precarious picture for the likely Democratic nominee, one in which he may win the nomination, but will lose an appreciable size of the Democratic vote. But I think it bears mentioning at this point that Clinton is standing on much thinner ice than one may recognize.

With reconciliation becoming a key goal of the Democratic party, there has been a decided movement to let Clinton do what Clinton is going to do. Indeed, for all the talk of appeasement that has been floated around, the only real appeasement that seems to be in action is whatever appeasement it takes to not further anger the Clinton portion of the Democratic party beyond what has already taken place.

What seems to be forgotten, though, are the potential repurcussions if Clinton and her supporters were to truly have their way. That’s to say, having Michigan and Florida seated as is, with a flood of Super Delegates at the last minute stampeding to nominate Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, a result to this primary not nearly as drastic as that could spell terrible repurcussions for Hillary Clinton.

Right now, Clinton and her supporters are being courted with kid gloves. It seems as though no one can endorse Obama anymore without heaping truckloads of praise on Clinton, and the calls for Clinton to drop out among party officials have all but ceased. There is a definite sense that the entire party is walking around on egg shells to promise Clinton and her supporters everything… except the nomination anyway.

Please please please, anything to keep these people from pulling the trigger.

But everything hinges on one thing; Clinton not ruining the Democratic party’s chance of beating McCain at the White House. Indeed, this may very well be part of the reason why there hasn’t been a mass capitulation campaign to nominate Clinton.

The dynamic that we are seeing right now from Clinton supporters would likely only be worse for Obama supporters which include far more people who are not party loyalists and would be much more prone to defect or stay home. Also, Obama supporters are operating from the very valid perspective that their candidate won fair and square, campaigning in accordance to the rules laid down by the DNC and that everyone agreed to, and he did so running a less negative campaign; an assertion backed up by most recent exit polls in latter states that almost unanimously express the opinion that Clinton campaigned more unfairly than did Senator Obama.

Unlike Clinton supporters whose hopes are based upon contrived metrics, Obama supporters have every right to expect that their candidate be rightfully nominated as the Democratic candidate for the General Election. And if he isn’t, well, I can only predict that the backlash we are seeing now from Clinton supporters would be significantly dwarfed by those supporters of Obama, and their wounds would be far less likely to heal.

Not me, of course, I’m voting for whomever is on the ticket against McCain, but then I’m a party loyalist.

Thus we begin to understand just how thin the ice Clinton is perched upon truly is. Right now she is given a broad latitude to continue to make the case that she should be the nominee, but even there she is restricted. As I have posited before; should she become overtly negative again, I do believe that the Super Delegates will move swiftly and definitively to end her campaign for her.

Barring that, however, Clinton is free to run her campaign until the primaries are over, or until she retires of her own accord. She can tout her experience, she can discuss electoral math and electability, and she can even continue to talk about Florida and Michigan despite the blatant hypocrisy that comes with doing so.

She can even threaten to take the nomination fight to the Democratic convention, if she chooses.

But she can not actually do so without suffering very severe repurcussions as a result. Here’s the bottom line: barring a miracle, within days following the final primaries on June 3rd, Clinton must at a bare minimum suspend her campaign.

She can get away with only suspending her campaign, hanging on in case something so damaging to Obama comes about that makes him unfit for the nomination, but that is about as much as she can feasibly do at this point, and even that may not be enough.

From June 4th on, she must be committed to electing the Democratic nominee as president of the United States or she faces being ostracized from the party; I can’t imagine a situation in which the Democratic party will be amenable to her continued participation if she is seen as an active liability among its ranks.

Further, despite promises to take the nomination fight to the convention, doing so I believe will be made moot by the Super Delegates. Whether Clinton retires or not is not going to stop the rest of the party rallying behind the person that has rightfully performed better in the Democratic primaries and accrued more delegates, and has essentially beaten Clinton by every reasonable metric. They will also likely want to avoid the potentially greater backlash from Obama supporters who would rightfully view Clinton’s further attempts as “stealing” the nomination that he won fair and square.

Thus, I’m not discounting the idea that Clinton won’t take it this all the way to Denver, but I am saying that there are few benefits for her doing so. She could come out with the nomination, but with only a few months between Denver and November, she will not have the time necessary to reconcile with a huge portion of Obama’s supporters, and runs an unacceptable risk of losing a large portion of the base.

For every other conceivable scenario where she does take it to the convention but does not win the nomination she will then have greatly damaged any ability to unify the party around the Candidate, and engendered what I believe will be irreparable bitterness among both party elites, and Democratic voters who will not be pleased that she put the race for the White House in such jeopardy.

And what of Florida and Michigan?

While I have turned a 180 in my opinion of Clinton, and have managed to appreciate her as a fighter, and admire her as a strong Democrat again, that does not change the fact that the Clinton Campaign’s approach to Florida and Michigan remains the height of hypocrisy.

And in the case of Florida, attempting to reseat the delegations hovers dangerously close to being felonious apparently (h/t Joe Gandelman).

The push for Florida and Michigan is hypocrisy as evidenced by Clinton’s Campaign Chair, Terry McAuliffe. Back in 2003, he took the hardliner stance against pushing up primaries before Iowa and New Hampshire, but now he’s all for it.

In fact, everyone agreed to not seat Florida and Michigan until, as the oft repeated argument goes, Clinton realized she needed them to remain competitive. Thus, the movement to seat those two states is not so much a movement for civil rights, but instead a cynical mockery of them for one’s own political gain.

I could continue further, but to be honest, doing so would only be rehashing old arguments that the right people aren’t listening to anyway, so there’s hardly a point.

What is the point is that up until June 3rd, Clinton can do almost anything she wants. But if she wakes up on June 4th and decides to pull the trigger, I believe she will be sealing her own political fate, and she’ll take the party down with her.

Very thin ice indeed.

More at Memeorandum: The Moderate Voice, MSNBC, PoliBlog (TM), NO QUARTER, TPM Election Central, The Confluence, Balloon Juice, Real Clear Politics, Big Head DC and Political Machine

(edited by DrGail)

8 Responses to “Clinton’s Thin Ice”

  1. Logic says:

    Excellent read! PRECISELY the way I feel! If HRC, is somehow given this nomination I will definitely find myself voting for McCain! Obama has won according to the rules and guidelines that ALL candidates agreed to prior to this process, now at the 11th hour the rules have changed! The “beauty” contests now should be counted, and the popular vote totals are the accurate way to determine the nomination (even though his name wasn’t even on the ballot in one state), only big states matter, WV and KY are the most important swing states, and my personal favorite, the caucus system that has been used since Jefferson’s time is now flawed! Give me a break! Stop whining and be that strong woman which you profess to be.

    Unfortunately, a certain segment of her supporters are under the impression that she is some way owed this nomination regardless of the rules and don’t see her actions or inactions (as far as not conceding, or denouncing the blatant racist undertones in her campaign) as being self-destructive as far as the party is concerned. So now they want to take their proverbial “ball” and go home if she is not the nominee. I say…good bye!

    And I whole-heartedly agree with the presumption that the backlash she would receive by Obama Supporters via a stolen nomination would be unlike anything the party has ever endured and would likely cause a permanent rift!

  2. Rufus Alex says:

    I totally agree! At a time in our nation where we are spending $4.00 per gallon for gasoline and poor people are making record numbers of contibutions to Barack Obama’s campaign, then if we were to be denied the nomination for POTUS, a never before seen backlash would occur! When a potential nominee can attract an estimated 75,000 people to rally in Oregon, or 35,000 in Philidephia, where college students whom I had lost hope in would rather donate than eat, can donate frequent flier miles, car pool for thousands of miles, sleep in a total stranger’s house of another race, barely speak the same language, be united for a cause bigger than ourselves, could possibly be denied something that you won by following the rules, you better be careful!! It will not be a Clinton victory, I promise you!!

  3. you says:

    you really think you’re over your CDS ???

    “What is the point is that up until June 3rd, Clinton can do almost anything she wants. But if she wakes up on June 4th and decides to pull the trigger, I believe she will be sealing her own political fate, and she’ll take the party down with her.”

    If the party decides on June 4th to ignore the will of the voters, those of us who have spent our lives building this party will leave gladly with Sen Clinton, and Obama, the Party, and his supporters will only have yourselves to blame. You misinterpret us, we are not angry, or voting against Obama (he has a hard time recognizing that not everything is about him). We are proud democrats who will only vote for the candidate who the majority of democrats have voted for. You can take your “new politics” and keep the brand. we’re moving on……

  4. Amos says:

    I never thought I would agree with the Republicans. But they are right about Hillary. No wonder she excites their base! I now see what they are talking about. I will put my money on her taking it to the convention, pulling her pants down, and disgracing the party and the country in Denver.

  5. bostondreams says:


    Goodbye. Enjoy your time in the wilderness. Because you will be wandering for quite a while.

  6. DM Metzger says:

    “You misinterpret us, we are not angry, or voting against Obama (he has a hard time recognizing that not everything is about him). We are proud democrats who will only vote for the candidate who the majority of democrats have voted for. You can take your “new politics” and keep the brand. we’re moving on……”

    Yes… if by voted for you mean to ignore caucus states and include one-name sham elections with no compromise sure, you might be right. But don’t treat us like idiots. You, and those of your opinion, are having a collective hissy fit. If you’re willing to let a Repub into office after the last 7 years you’re not a Democrat, and you’re certainly not the kind of progressive liberal who belongs in the party.

  7. tas says:

    Dear “you” —

    The plurality of votes in the Democratic contests this season have gone towards Obama, not Clinton. So the party would be choosing the person who received the most votes if Obama is awarded the nomination.

    Therefore, there’s no reason for a good Democrat like you to not vote for him. Well, no rreason that you’ve stated, at least.

    Now unless you want a President McCain…


  8. Tony Smith says:

    Have you looked at the newly released Rasmussen and Gallup polls which show Clinton beating McCain but McCain beating Obama? This is due to the defectors. AWESOME!


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