The New Civil Rights Movement

Even at this late date in the primary season, it’s difficult to believe that Hillary Clinton really, actually, said this:

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Hillary Clinton compared her effort to seat Florida and Michigan delegates to epic American struggles, including those to free the slaves and win the right to vote for blacks and women.

The current stalemate over the two states’ primary votes threatens to replicate the disputed 2000 presidential election in Florida, she warned an elderly crowd in Palm Beach County – one of the jurisdictions where Democrats allege voters were disenfranchised in 2000.

The pointed speech marked the kick-off of a last-gasp effort by Clinton to prolong her Democratic presidential campaign by making the states count, which would cut into rival Barack Obama’s leads in popular votes and pledged delegates.

“In Florida, you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren’t counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner,” she said. “The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal clear: if any votes aren’t count, the will of the people isn’t realized and our democracy is diminished.”

Clinton, at times sounding like a modern history professor, praised the abolitionists, suffragettes and civil rights pioneers and talked about her own efforts to fight legislative redistricting and voter identification initiatives that she said dilute minority voting power.

“This work to extend the franchise to all of our citizens is a core mission of the modern Democratic party,” she said. “From signing the Voting Rights Act and fighting racial discrimination at the ballot box to lowering the voting age so those old enough to fight and die in war would have the right to choose their commander in chief, to fighting for multi-lingual ballots so you can make your voice heard no matter what language you speak.”

[…]

She said “there’s a reason why so many have fought so hard and sacrificed so much. It’s because they knew that to be a citizen of this country is to have the right and responsibility to help shape its future. Not just to have your voice heard but to have it count. People have fought hard because they knew their vote was at stake and so was their children’s futures.

Those people, she said “refused to accept their assigned place as second-class citizens. Men and women who saw America not as it was, but as it could and should be, and committed themselves to extending the frontiers of our democracy. The abolitionists and all who fought to end slavery and ensure freedom came with the full right of citizenship. The tenacious women and a few brave men who gathered at the Seneca Falls convention back in 1848 to demand the right to vote.”

“Because of those who have come before, Sen. Obama and I have and so many of you have this precious right today. Because of all that has been done, we are in this historic presidential election. And I believe that both Sen. Obama and myself have an obligation as potential Democratic nominees – in fact we all have an obligation as Democrats – to carry on this legacy and ensure that in our nominating process, every voice is heard and every single vote is counted.”

She also warned of grave political costs in the November general election against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain if the Democratic National Committee does not seat the Florida and Michigan delegations.

“If we fail to do so, I worry that we will pay not only a moral cost, but a political cost as well,” she said. “We know the road to a Democratic White House runs right through Florida and Michigan. If we care about winning those states in November, we need to count your votes now. If Democrats send a message that we don’t fully value your votes, we know Sen. McCain and the Republicans will be more than happy to have them. The Republicans will make a simple and compelling argument: why should Florida and Michigan voters trust the Democratic Party to look out for you when they won’t even listen to you.”

But she did say it.

Sen. Clinton is out of touch with reality. I mean, big time. Like, Bush league. How can she possibly liken Florida and Michigan to slavery and the civil rights movement when, as Jonathan Chait puts it, she “supported this disenfranchisement.”

This gambit by Clinton is simply an attempt to steal the nomination. It’s obviously not going to work, because Democratic superdelegates don’t want to commit suicide. But this episode is very revealing about Clinton’s character. I try not to make moralistic characterological judgments about politicians, because all politicians compromise their ideals in the pursuit of power. There are no angels in this business. Clinton’s gambit, however, truly is breathtaking.

If she’s consciously lying, it’s a shockingly cynical move. I don’t think she’s lying. I think she’s so convinced of her own morality and historical importance that she can whip herself into a moralistic fervor to support nearly any position that might benefit her, however crass and sleazy. It’s not just that she’s convinced herself it’s okay to try to steal the nomination, she has also appropriated the most sacred legacies of liberalism for her effort to do so. She is proving herself temperamentally unfit for the presidency.

You can add the vice-presidency to that:

How do you respond to a sociopath like this? She agreed that Michigan and Florida should be punished for moving up their primaries. Obama took his name off the ballot in deference to their agreement and the rules of the party. That he should now be punished for playing by the rules and she should be rewarded for skirting them is unconscionable.

I think she has now made it very important that Obama not ask her to be the veep. The way she is losing is so ugly, so feckless, so riddled with narcissism and pathology that this kind of person should never be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Michael Crowley thinks there’s something deeper going on here:

Campaigning in Florida today, Hillary lamented that voters there were “punished” when the DNC stripped the state’s delegates. She also added: “I say that not counting Florida and Michigan is changing a central governing rule of this country.”

This is one of the clearest data points yet for my argument that the Clintons believe they’re being impeached all over again. Bill and Hillary felt impeachment was nothing less than an illegal coup attempt. Now Hillary seems to be arguing more directly than ever that democracy has been subverted to take the nomination from her.

If that’s true, even more reason why Clinton is an inappropriate choice for the presidency.

John Cole notes the irony:

After courting the white vote for months in Appalachia, Mrs. Nixon informs us that seating Florida and Michigan are akin to the Civil Rights Movement.

And speaking of the white vote… Shaun Mullen finds another myth shattered:

Exit polls from Oregon punch a big hole in the theory that Barack Obama’s problem with working class whites is generic.

As the former president’s son alludes to in his quip on MSNBC last night, Obama’s real problem appears to be with Appalachian whites as is reflected in how Hillary Clinton creamed him in Kentucky and West Virginia.

But Oregon exit polls show that Obama beat Clinton by sizable margins among all ages of white voters except those 60 and older. And he beat Clinton among voters with no college degree, as well.

Incidentally, like Kentucky and West Virginia, Oregon is an overwhelmingly white state.

From their keyboards to God’s ears.

Cross-posted at Liberty Street.

2 Responses to “The New Civil Rights Movement”

  1. xcite says:

    If anyone is out of touch with reality, its you. Clinton never suggested FL and MI be disenfranchised, and you should not distort her record. Unlike Obama, she has been consistent on seating their delegations, from day one.

  2. bostondreams says:

    Xcite. No, she has NOT. She has herself explicitly stated that the Michigan primary, at the very least, does not count. As for disenfranchisment, please. Clinton is a fool to compare problems in Florida to places like Zimbabwe. Unless she is of course trying to compare herself to Mugabe, changing the rules after the fact.

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