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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

After Today

posted by on March 4 at 7:45 AM

What’s truly weird about the convention brawl scenario is this: It’s not about the agenda or direction of the party like the infamous brawls in ‘68 and ‘72 that shattered the Democratic Party for a generation.

Indeed, the Democratic Party is actually united for the first time in decades.

But if this thing doesn’t end today, the party is headed straight for some kind of convoluted superdelegate deal or embarrassing televised mess in Denver. So, despite the rare moment of unity, it’ll be the disarray of ‘68 all over again, wrecking the ‘08 momentum.

Sadly, this brawl is about something much less important than the direction of the party. This brawl is about two huge personalities and egos represented by two cults of personality.

McCarthy vs. Humphrey was about Vietnam. McGovern vs.Everybody was about the culture and values of the Party. (Carter vs. Kennedy in ‘80 and Mondale vs. Hart/ Jackson in ‘84 rehashed the same painful Party divide.)

Obama vs. Hillary is about Obama vs. Hillary. It’s a little silly.

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If this does not end by today (well within the next week once the dust settles) I really think we could see a floor fight at the convention. And yes the GOP will exploit that to mean the Democrats are not "mature" enough to lead the country.

Couple that with the nation in or heading into a recession (depends on who you ask) the Democrats need to show that this fight over personality (it is not about policy look at the policy details for both Clinton and Obama: they are nearly identical) is going to end and it needs to end soon, very soon or the GOP goes into November with the upper hand.

Bottom line is we are still fighting over the nomination while the GOP is already looking towards November. To all of us Democrats: PULL YOUR HEADS OUT NOW!!

Posted by Leave it to the Democrats to clench Defeat from the jaws of Victory | March 4, 2008 7:50 AM

well, since it's pretty much impossible for clinton to win without getting the superdelegates or getting Florida and Michigan to count, it's more about her ego than Obamas.

Posted by konstantConsumer | March 4, 2008 7:52 AM

It's not a personality issue for *me*. Go listen to Obama's 2-min texas commercial posted yesterday. That's not personality, those are values and culture. It's a choice between corruption and transparency, between deceit and honesty. Take this Rezko stuff -- Obama's response? "I made a boneheaded mistake". How REFRESHING. My damned president can admit when he made an error in judgment? Awesome. Clinton still won't admit her Iraq vote was a mistake. I don't need another Bush in the white house. That's not personality, that's values. That's issues of honesty and rationality and judgment.

Posted by really? | March 4, 2008 7:55 AM

I thought it was about change vs. experience; or character vs. nepotism; or black vs. woman; or my cult is younger and better looking than your cult

Posted by ghostlawns | March 4, 2008 7:56 AM

End today? Who wants 8 months of McCain-Democrat? It's only been 2 months since Iowa. What's the rush? To give more time for the Republicans to character assassinate? Let them not know.

Posted by chicagogaydude | March 4, 2008 8:01 AM

This is very much about the direction of the party, Josh. No matter how relentlessly you try to foist your ignorance on your hapless readers, many of us know a hell of a lot more about these things than you do.

Posted by ivan | March 4, 2008 8:01 AM

It's fucking infuriating is what it is. I want the youth vote to come out today and crush HRC so we can move on. I think it's utterly pathetic that her best line of attack is, "He's just as bad a pandering politician is me." Fuck, if I wanted to vote for a Republican, I would.

Posted by Gitai | March 4, 2008 8:02 AM

Maybe a bit more than that, Josh. For one thing, I think everyone recognizes at an intuitive level that HRC is more of a centrist in the DLC model. There is the matter of that Iraq vote and HRC's two years of stumping for the war.

Also, HRC's campaign represents a traditional strategy against McCain: Cede the 240 delegates from the solid-red states, fight over just the swing states (Ohio, Iowa, Florida) and eke out a win. Obama, for better or worse, suggests carving out some new Democratic territory.

But yes, this is a non-ideological battle for the most part. It's more an accident of timing than a major schism.

Posted by Andy James | March 4, 2008 8:02 AM

But at least when it just comes down to a popularity contest there's no need to get upset if your guy (or girl) loses to the other since the other is a great candidate too.

At least that's my feel. I have a favorite but if HE doesn't win the nom it won't upset me.

Posted by monkey | March 4, 2008 8:07 AM

The "mess" at the Chicago '68 convention was out in the streets, where city cops--unleashed by Democratic mayor Daly--brutally attacked anti-Vietnam War protesters. As for the ideological battles going on inside the '68 convention, that debate and ferment might just be what democracy looks like: a struggle. "Messiness" reflects the stakes in a presidential election more accurately than the saccharine spectacles of well-controlled conventions where conclusions are foregone.

Posted by Sarah | March 4, 2008 8:14 AM

If I ever had Clinton sympathies (and I did), they've long left the building. I'm so turned off by her mud-slinging, and I think I'm not alone in that. I'll be watching closely today to see what happens.

Posted by Katelyn | March 4, 2008 8:14 AM

A valid point, Josh. Although I do have to admit to getting a pretty good laugh out of the story on HuffPost today about the caller to Rush Limbaugh who said Obama looked like Curious George.

Posted by Elvis | March 4, 2008 8:16 AM

What on earth are you talking about? You yourself posted about how one of Obama's assets is the way he offers opportunity to move beyond the partisan battles of the 1960s. Obama vs. Clinton, for many supporters of each, is about those who are sick of that particular political culture vs. those who are comfortable with and embrace it.

Posted by tsm | March 4, 2008 8:18 AM

Cults of personality? Really??


Is this Newsweek?

Your readers aren't that stupid, Josh.

Posted by Original Andrew | March 4, 2008 8:21 AM

Ha ha on Ivan.

Posted by A 34th District D Who Thinks Ivan is a Joke | March 4, 2008 8:23 AM

This has been about Hillary's ego for some time. Can someone please remind me why she's still in this? Looking at the numbers, she cannot win. It's simple. So why is she continuing? Because it's about her.

I seriously used to like the Clintons. I did. But I'm disliking her more each day. From her campaign doctoring a photo of Obama to look darker to her campaign workers in Ohio "accidentally" calling him Osama when contacting voters, her campaign just gets more and more repulsive.

One wonders about a person who heads a campaign like that.

Posted by Michigan Matt | March 4, 2008 8:23 AM

What's a little silly are the Democratic Party doomsday scenarios. It's like 48 years until the general election, and there's at least 10 years between the convention and the election. The polls have enough time to top and bottom out several times. Democrats have enough time to become bored and excited, make babies, eat breakfast, reconcile, ...

Posted by umvue | March 4, 2008 8:25 AM

I'm not a Clinton fan and think she is unelectable against McCain, however, she has the right to continue running and she should be allowed to do so. The race is close and she has a shot at it, to insist she pull out is wrong. If the tables were turned and you were asking Obama to conceed I wouldn't go for that either.

Hey, the democratic party is going to be just fine. People in this country are ready for a change. This is the year.

Posted by Suz | March 4, 2008 8:26 AM

It's actually the people versus a cult of personality.

Do you want the Democratic party to be about electing Democrats or do you want it to be about electing Clinton?

We already saw the fruits of the latter approach during the 90s - a brutal assraping at the polls all the way down the ticket.

Posted by ru shur | March 4, 2008 8:29 AM

But, Josh, isn't this a "problem" (if you see it as such, or maybe a challenge or even a strength) inherently built into the modern (post Kennedy) Democratic party?

The Republican's lockstep ideology of black/white, us/them, good/evil polarities resists shades of gray, whereas the grassrooted Democrats and their ideology about consensus, complexity, many valid points-of-view, and big-tent embrace of varied groups is always going to be more chaos-prone than the disciplinary GOP.

Unfortunately that simplistic Republican worldview offers strident certainty in times of upheaval, and why George W. Bush wasn't decisively defeated in 2000 and barely re-elected in 2004.

Unfortunately this inherent publicity problem is always going to challenge the Democrats to communicate that the multicultural, liberal philosophy can govern responsibly and effectively, unlike the last seven years of jackbooted GOP-marching off the cliff.

Posted by Andy Niable | March 4, 2008 8:30 AM


You're right about that. And I do see thematic differences.

But I also see a cohesive Democratic agenda splintered by voters who are emotionally attached to the personalities of either Obama or Hillary—in a way that's odd—rather than their policies.

Posted by Josh Feit | March 4, 2008 8:30 AM

The party wants this over with because the race is beginning to seriously cut into money and volunteer energy for downticket races.

Of course, Hillary doesn't give a shit about electing other Democrats, so she's not going to stop.

Posted by ru shur | March 4, 2008 8:33 AM

For me it is about do we want to win. And since this got well underway about three months ago, I haven´t seen any sign at all from Senator Clinton that she will pull any more than solid Democrats.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | March 4, 2008 8:34 AM

I was going to make a point along the lines of @10, that this upcoming convention (which I may even get to be part of) would have to get a *lot* messier to be anything like the 68 convention.

Posted by PeterF | March 4, 2008 8:36 AM

I don't have a problem with the spotlight staying on Obama and Clinton all the way to the convention. I don't have a problem with the convention itself being a contest that holds the everyone riveted. Every day this goes on is another day when Democratic issues remain front and center.

Josh thinks of himself as an insurgent, out to slip some progressive change past the mainstream voter when they aren't paying attention. He's kind of embarrassed to have Democrats on TV all day.

The majority of Americans are divided as to how we get universal health care; those who want to argue whether we get universal health care are a minority who are rightly being left out of the discussion.

So this goes on and on and McCain can tell himself that not being mentioned in the news is good for him. People are going to forget he exists.

Posted by elenchos | March 4, 2008 8:36 AM

To me, the tragedy of Hillary Clinton is that she is a bright, personable, extremely capable woman who would be a great president.


She has allowed herself to become a caricature of a cross between a Human Resource Manager and a Vice-President of Marketing at a particularly banal corporation. We see only a few glimpses of the woman underneath.

and who can respect that?

Posted by catalina vel-duray | March 4, 2008 8:38 AM

deep breath. stop hyperventilating.
what we are seeing is a contested nomination not a brawl or a bitter fight that can't result in unity or anything like 1968 which had freakin' cops in the streets.

The overly feared floor fight is what conventions are for and is normal. Saying quit now, we fear a floor fight, is to be afraid of a process that OBama never criticized until now. Opportunistic again.

In a recent poll 67% said the contest should continue beyond today even if HRC does not win both TX and OH.

It is March 4. Obama started receiving media attention in January. two months of scrutiny is not sufficient vetting.

The latest news reduces his electability (double talking on NAFTA, not holding hearings, accepting and not returning a huge gift from indicted Rezko, judgment issues and other question about being best buds with such a crook, inane defenses like "there are no allegations of wrongdoing" or "I've answered all questions" in connection with that, etc.) Zogby says today that undecided voters in OH and TX are breaking towards Clinton. She's getting upticks in polls and looks like Obama will fail to win most of the states voting today.
And suddenly -- Obama folks want to stop the game.

Unity is only a phone call away ("Hillary, how 'bout VP to settle this? Just keep BillDawg out of your EOB office!!)

So -- it's not unity driving this call to stop. It appears to be fear of the process.

Posted by unPC | March 4, 2008 8:40 AM

I know this has gone round and round on the Slog, but...

Either use Barack and Hillary, or Obama and Clinton. Mixing them is, if nothing else, impolite.

Posted by Christin | March 4, 2008 8:40 AM

This brawl is about two huge personalities and egos represented by two cults of personality.

I thought it was a fight about who's unobtainable national health-care proposal covers the most people. In the end that's really all they really seem to fight about.

Posted by Cato | March 4, 2008 8:46 AM

It'll all be fine. The general public view both of these candidates as equally good (Slate reports today that they have similar polling negatives), so a little more sparring and limelight will help us in the fall.

Posted by Big Sven | March 4, 2008 8:46 AM

@27, for the record, even though I'm for Obama, I'm with you -- I like this going on longer if only to keep up with substantive discussion about things like healthcare and other domestic policy issues. The general election fight is going to be ugly no matter which Democrat is nominated and I'm in no hurry to get to all the media crap about terrorist-appeasing socialists versus wise old man McCain.

Posted by PeterF | March 4, 2008 8:49 AM

I don't care how soft-focus you see HRC, she and Bill are totally corrupt. Bogus bribes from cattle futures trading, fundraising scandals, the last-minute pardons, Marc Rich, HRC's flag-burning law, etc. To say there's no difference is insane.

Just because the rightwing attack machine made up a bunch of stuff doesn't mean they're saints.

Posted by carlita | March 4, 2008 8:57 AM


1) His signs say Obama & her's say Hillary. I do what I'm told.

2) My post is about their "cults of personality" ...and using Obama and Hillary seemed to sum that up.

Posted by Josh Feit | March 4, 2008 9:03 AM
She has allowed herself to become a caricature of a cross between a Human Resource Manager and a Vice-President of Marketing at a particularly banal corporation.

And we're going to see more and more of that. Since the only real hope Hillary Clinton has is to make a case at the convention, by the time July rolls around, it will be interesting to see her standing among the supers.

Meanwhile, McCain scores another victory in his "Less Jobs, More War" campaign by successfully engineering the outsourcing of a $40 billion+ Pentagon contract away from Boeing to--of all places--France! Home of the dreaded Freedom Fries (and governmental Airbus subsidies).

Try as Ann Coulter may to make him appear moderate, this hotheaded, war-mongering, flip-flopping right-wing nutcase is going down big time this November.

Posted by kk | March 4, 2008 9:04 AM

@28 (Christin), This is true to a point, and I do try to use Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama whenever possible.

But you should remember that Sen. Clinton is using her first name to campaign in this election. It's not disrespect, just her preferred identifier.

Posted by V | March 4, 2008 9:09 AM

@34, hooray for you! This point cannot be made enough. Why isn't O'Reilly on Fox every night foaming and threatening a boycott of Alabama (where it's apparently also okay to blackout unfavorable news coverage by CBS)...?

The snarky guest editorial in today's Seattle Times by an Alabama columnist should angry up a lot of local WA blood. I don't see McCain getting much love in these parts from here on out...

Posted by PeterF | March 4, 2008 9:12 AM

I think that this has been Hillary's most effective smear tactic, and it's the one that's the hardest to avoid - that he's not special, he's just like me, and everyone who thinks he's new and different, he's not, 'cause we're the same. When someone starts throwing mud, it's impossible not to get dirty, and I think that's been Hillary's whole point, and to a large extent, it's worked.

The sad part to me though is that this really is about the future of the party, not warring "cults of personality" (and can we please stop using that term? Stalin and Kim Jong-Il have cults of personality, no one in this country even comes close) and not crypto-racists vs. crypto-sexists or however they're breaking it down on CNN. And the party really in a fundamental way doesn't seem to get that. And so my fear is, if Hillary wins, a lot of these people who have been making this contest so exciting are going to feel turned away.

And it's kind of true - speaking purely anecdotally, there is no one i know who is excited about working for Hillary in the Fall, and I know about a dozen folks who will volunteer time and money to Obama. If Hillary wins, I think most of these people will either feel mildly disenfranchised and vote for her anyway, and quite a few will vote for Nader or not vote at all. And we'll have another average campaign, another average turnout, and if there's any poetry, Ohio'll go to Mccain and we'll four more years of GOP.

Either way, it'll be back to politics as usual.

Posted by quilsone | March 4, 2008 9:42 AM


she and Bill are totally corrupt

Fuck off, troll. Fuck your attempt to polarize this campaign with second grade moralizing. Both candidates are great, and your hysterical lies won't change that fact.

Posted by Big Sven | March 4, 2008 9:53 AM

What I love about Slog is that the people here are so earnest in their attempts to win over hearts and minds.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 4, 2008 10:08 AM


I don't know about you, but I don't necessarily want a "saint" for president.

Re: the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton name debate-true, her signs say Hillary. But that doesn't mean she should be referred to as Hillary all the time in the press. The signs are a "snappy" way of giving her her own identity. However, she should be referred to as Sen. Clinton or Clinton-it is just disrespectful to call her Hillary when Obama is mostly referred to by his last name.

Posted by No saints | March 4, 2008 10:26 AM

Gotta agree with Josh. The left has been marginalized within the Dems since the end of the Rainbow Coalition. What remains following the DLC's victory is a presidential primary with two neoliberals who support the war on drugs and the war on terror arguing mainly over whose style will best appeal to swing voters and independents.

I pick Obama, even though his frequent invocation of King's "fierce urgency of now" (from his Riverside Church speech against the Vietnam War) and the UFW's "Yes We Can" (Si se puede) coopts more than it continues the legacy of 1960s social movements that called for a radical redistribution of wealth and power.

Posted by Trevor | March 4, 2008 10:41 AM

@41: Yeah, when "Si se puede" comes to mean "Yes we can elect Barack Obama" and no longer connects with an older meaning of "Yes we can enfranchise the disenfranchised; yes we can obtain basic rights for all workers; yes we can overcome in this struggle," etc., that's when we start saying it's all been reduced to personality branding and a tagline.

Posted by Sarah | March 4, 2008 10:52 AM

What I love about Slog is how the Obama fanatics continually try to slime Hillary Clinton using juvenile attempts at reverse psychology - "I used to like Hillary - until I found out she's a lying, egomaniac centrist bitch!" Really? Yeah, right.

Then there are the Obama hypocrites who slime Hillary at the very moment they're complaining about her! What a joke.

If there's anything that I've learned about Obama supporters, it's that they have no qualms about using the same sleazy campaign tactics as Karl Rove during George W. Bush's campaigns. Smug, ignorant and sleazy - it's the Obama way!

And if you know anything at all about the cult of personality phenomenon, Clinton doesn't have it, while, Obama is the very definition of cult of personality.

Nice attempt at trying to lump them together though!

Posted by Mike in Pioneer Square | March 4, 2008 11:24 AM

I'm looking forward to Wednesday so Sen McCain can run his own attack ads against Sen Obama instead of having Sen Clinton do it for him.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 4, 2008 11:42 AM

Using the term "cult of personality" is shorthand for "Politics is hard. I don't understand what is happening and can't explain why one candidate is up and another is down. I'll just call it a cult and take the rest of the day off."

Posted by elenchos | March 4, 2008 11:43 AM

@45 (elenchos),

Except neither candidate is "up or down" in today's match ups. They are pretty much tied in Texas, with Clinton slightly ahead in Ohio.

This post is onto something. There seems to be an un-resolvable split based on the fact that some voters really really "like" Clinton and others really really "like" Obama.

In fact, there are substantive differences (particularly on leadership issues), but the stand off seems to be about "HILLARY!" vs. "OBAMA!" rather than about policy issues that have split the party in the past.

Posted by Fired Up | March 4, 2008 12:10 PM

Mike in Pioneer Square is just throwing another tantrum because he cant accept Hillary not winning the nomination.

all this venting mike, and for what?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 4, 2008 12:11 PM

What? As if there is something wrong with having two candidates left at this stage of the game? Are you nuts? Get over your Obamamania already. The only tragedy is that we don't still have at least four or five in it to keep it a lively debate for more of the year. At least it's down to two.

Posted by wtf? | March 4, 2008 12:12 PM

@42. Absolutely right.

Posted by johnnie | March 4, 2008 3:23 PM

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