Thursday, May 22, 2008

Yes, I Voted for Hillary Clinton. And What?

Sunday brunch found the Holy Prepuce on a Brooklyn street where the gentrification ratio of square to triangular awnings is still about 50:50. My companion, a surgeon, and I, a lawyer, met in a decidedly square-awninged establishment -- two members of the Barack Obama demographic in an outpost of creeping Obama country. Yet I found myself engaged, not for the first time, in an awkward dance: the coming-out of secret Hillary Clinton supporters. It starts with equivocal, tentative inquiries, and ends with the delight and relief of weary countrymen discovering each other while lost in a faraway land.

In hushed tones, we spoke of bewilderment at our peer group's wholesale ingestion of the Obama Kool-Aid, of our of bafflement at what "change" we were supposed to "believe in," and of our distaste for the calculation of an obviously brilliant man to run an anti-intellectual campaign of revival meetings. We grumbled over the media's penchant to spin any Clinton statement, however self-evident or innocuous, into coded race-baiting -- while laughing off (or participating in) the myriad, explicitly gendered attacks on Clinton's persona. Mostly, we lamented that the woman we think would make the more electable candidate and better President will not likely get to be either. All the while, I suspected eavesdropping diners of incredulity that a respectable establishment would serve such class traitors as ourselves.

Why have I been afraid to admit publicly that I want Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States? Have I been worried that my friends would desert me as an irretrievably racist war-monger? Anyone who knows me can't believe those things. Maybe it's just been easier not to correct the innumerable friends who have assumed in their emails ("we won Iowa!"), online status messages ("10,000 Grave Diggers for Hillary Clinton"), and general conversation that my ticket for the bandwagon was stamped long ago.

But Sunday's brunch has brought me to a critical mass of comings-out, and given me courage to think that there are other Clintonophiles lurking among the denizens of our over-educated demographic. So now I'm outing myself to the world. The Holy Prepuce is an Ivy League educated, East Coast urban professional, and he voted for Hillary Clinton. So there.

Now, as the only Clinton supporter you know, Dear Reader, I'm going to answer your question: should Clinton drop out of the race? Here's what I have to say about that:

Neither candidate will have enough pledged delegates to win, so the nomination is up to the superdelegates. The incessant suggestions that the superdelegates must "honor the popular vote" are nonsensical -- if superdelegates are supposed to rubber stamp the popular vote, what is the point of having superdelegates?

Despite media reports of x superdelegates for Clinton and y superdelegates for Obama, interviews and press releases are not the same as actual votes at the convention. When it comes time to cast their votes, superdelegates will have to ask themselves four questions: (1) Who would make the better President; (2)Who is more likely to beat John McCain; (3) Who is it publicly expedient -- e.g. to honor the primary popular vote -- to support; and (4) Who is it personally expedient to support? (While we may question the legitimacy of #4, this is politics, and politicians are a necessary evil thereof.)

Statements of support right now are probably based on a combination of #1 and #4, with increasing bits of #3 thrown in. But as the convention draws nearer, responsible superdelegates will need to take a hard look at #2. To do this, they will need to examine the polling data on electoral vote outcomes. As we learned in 2000 (and 1824, 1876, and 1888), it's electoral, not popular votes that matter. If either Democrat can beat McCain handily, then #2 is of little importance. But if the margins are small, or if one or both candidates actually trail McCain in the data, it's pretty hard to deny that #2 trumps the other factors. A losing ticket honoring the primary popular vote will not do the Democrats much good.

Indeed, elevating factor #2 above the primary popular vote is arguably the key purpose of superdelegates. They are intended as a countermajoritarian check on primary voters' penchant for selecting George McGoverns -- candidates pleasing to Democrats but unelectable in November. Is Obama the next McGovern? And could the superdelegates deliver a winning ticket by handing the nomination to Clinton? Take a look at the current (May 22) Obama vs. McCain and Clinton vs. McCain match-ups on Obama trails McCain by 43 electoral votes; Clinton leads McCain by 99.

Will these numbers be the same in August? Will the superdelegates have the courage to overturn the popular vote? It's too early to say at this point. Which is exactly why Hillary Clinton should stay in the race.


  1. I love your honesty but beyond all of your belief in Clinton's "electability", I have to question if you've looked at her character. If you, like many, have questioned Obama's "experience" I wonder if you've questioned Clinton's truthfulness. If you question his "electability" do you question her stating that she better reaches "hard working WHITE Americans". While he may lack 8 years experience as the spouse of the President (she counts this as experience...though I don't see how that counts), he has not had to admitt to lying explicitly (see the Penn debate) nor has he stated the he better reaches "hard working Black or Latino Americans" (I think we both agree he would be lambasted if he did state that).

    I too was a Clinton supporter until her character flaws began to bother me. I let a lot of her early questionable practices go unquestioned but then the Bosnia LIE ("mis-spoke", smish-spoke...she LIED/CONCOCTED/MADE-UP/ FABRICATED/ETC.) then Mark Penn and Columbia, then Bill's WV ramblings, and the final straw of the afore mentioned "hard working White Americans" comment.

    Character and intellectual honesty are very important in a President. I will not argue with your support of Hillary but I will question whether or not you are ignoring factual critiques of her in your support of her.

    God Bless,


  2. I know I've already made fun of you about this, but you can't really make the case that Obama is running on an anti-intellectual platform and that is, therefore, bad when Hillary's been making such a play for the lowest-common-denominator vote.

    Frankly, once campaigning for the general election really starts, that's going to be a McCain gaffefest -- it almost doesn't matter who runs against him.

  3. What's your opinion of the recent RFK assassination comment? Because I liked HRC pretty well until I heard that (though I voted for Obama - and I preferred Edwards over both of 'em, FWIW).

  4. I agree with your general sense that she has a unique ability to achieve in the face of challenges.

    I don't agree with your thoughts about the superdelegates. What is the point of having superdelegates? Sycophancy within the party. The only other valid argument is that is a form of republicanism (the concept, not the party). In the same way that the electoral college represents a mix of federalism, democracy, and republicanism, you seem to argue that the superdelegates represent an opportunity to help us not vote for 'bread and circuses' (Obama?) but to think of the bigger picture of the government.

    The problem is that the byzantine process of the party primaries makes a lot of contrary promises. To me, it is better to tie the hands of the superdelegates to a set of rules rather than allow them their heads solely. Elements of representative democracy are embedded throughout the process (caucuses, etc); better to not let number four of your list subvert the process and disenfranchise the people.

  5. Dearest HP!

    1) I'm not ignoring you. It's a long story.

    2) I'm a Clinton supporter too. She's deeply flawed--they both are--but she's more experienced, more knowledgeable, more realistic, less pandering, and more LGBT-friendly, among other virtues. And she's weathered an ungodly barrage of sexist attacks with a graciousness that she'll never get credit for.

    Happily, I'm accustomed to being one of the uncool kids, so the scorn of my dreamy-eyed Obama-worshipping demographic-mates doesn't bother me much.

  6. Can you please identify for me how the data listed was collected?
    I am skeptical of its validity. Having lived in divided communities, I have witnessed a lot of hostility toward Clinton from Republicans who would take Obama with a shrug.
    My fear is that come election day, if Clinton is the candidate then a lot of Republicans who would otherwise stay home would come out to vote just to keep her out. She is a far more divisive character and I think would also therefore be a less effective president.

    All that said, I am a registered independent so I couldn't vote for either and don't actually have a dog in this fight.


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