The Inevitable Candidate

Last night I endured considerable babbling from the television pundits about Barack Obama’s first quarter fundraising results. Consensus among the bobbleheads is that all those little people who gave nickles and dimes to Sen. Obama instead of Sen. Clinton must be (a) angry with her because of the war, or (b) still suffering Clinton fatigue. Or both.

I think both are a factor, but I think there’s another factor the bobbleheads are missing.

For the past few bleeping years the pundits have been telling us that Sen. Hillary Clinton will be the 2008 presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. No doubt about it. She’s got all this money, all these connections, a killer political organization — nay, a machine — behind her. Whether the Democratic Party base wanted her to be the candidate was never questioned. She was who we were going to get, like it or not.

After a while, Sen. Clinton started to sound like the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Frankly, this attitude has been pissing me off.

What’s worse, the Inevitable Candidate talk seemed symptomatic of what’s been wrong with the national Democratic Party for years — their insulation. For a lot of reasons — not all of them the fault of the politicians — the Dems haven’t had anything like a national progressive coalition behind them for about thirty years now. That means leadership positions in the party are entirely filled by people who are accustomed to running (and, occasionally, winning) election campaigns without thinking much about what a progressive base might want. Worse, many Dems have treated us progressives and liberals like disreputable relations; they don’t mind if we donate money and turn out to vote for them, but they’d rather not be seen with us in public.

So, instead of being active participants in the political process, we’re supposed to be the passive consumers of whatever product the party chooses to market. Bleep that, I say.

I’ve asked myself if I would feel the same way about an Inevitable Candidate if the I.C. were someone whose stand on the Iraq War and other issues were closer to my own opinions than Sen. Clinton’s are. Yes, I believe I would. I might support an I.C., but only if the candidate were someone capable of winning my support anyway. In other words, I’d support the I.C. in spite of his being the I.C., not because of it.

There a couple of things I suspect but can’t prove. One, I suspect much of the aura of Inevitable Candidate was wrapped about Sen. Clinton by the Right, because she’s the candidate they most want to run against in 2008. Two, I think Barack Obama is benefiting from some backlash against the I.C. I think a lot of the people who donated nickles and dimes to Barack Obama did so because he’s the only candidate other than Hillary Clinton the pundits take seriously these days.

There’s no one Dem officially running that I support 100 percent for the presidential nomination. It’s a strong field, but no one really stands out for me yet. But it’s 19 months until the election. In theory, we ought to have a lot of time yet to make up our minds. It used to be that presidential nominees were chosen by the party conventions three or four months before the elections. Now, we’re going to have a nominee chosen many months before most people are paying attention to presidential politics. And if the prime criterion for winning the nomination is collecting more donations than the other guys — how does that give us a good president, exactly?

Along these lines — there’s a good editorial called “Running for Dollars” in today’s New York Times.

14 thoughts on “The Inevitable Candidate

  1. Great post. It is sickening to me that money is supposed to be the biggie factor in electability/inevitability. I cannot figure out how to change that system without playing in that system in order to gain office….at which point persons coming into office could really wield power on behalf of instituting public financing. That’s also the point where everyone holds their collective breath to see whether the successful-in-the-system candidates have been subtly altered by the ‘win’ to an effect where the ‘fairness of public financing’ is er, forgotten and again abandoned.

    That the pundits are so engaged about the monies raised is part and parcel of their livelihood. It is the media who are the big winners when candidates can only compete by spending huge advertising dollars with the pundits’ corporate newsprint and television businesses. IMHO, the corporate media are financially dependent upon these election cycles, and hype the horse races accordingly.

    I have been reading some commentary about the voters wanting to have completed ‘plans’ from all candidates in order to make choices between competing plans, say for health care solutions or Iraq War solutions, or global warming solutions. That is fine in the same way that it is fine to judge baked goods at a county fair to determine who can cook a good pie. But, what if what we really need is to know who can cook up a good meal from limited ingredients? We need a way to separate the chefs from the cooks. We need a way to understand each candidate’s process of decision-making, inasmuch as we need a leader who is adaptable and loyal to progressive ideals.

  2. Help me out on this, because it’s entirely possible I’m being obtuse –

    How, precisely, has Senator Clinton exhibited this Borg-like behavior? What has she said that was intended to convey “inevitability?” What has she done, exactly, to promote this aura of invincibility that everyone keeps talking about? Raise a lot of money? Employ strategists disliked by progressives?

    It seems to me that this notion of her inevitability has been asserted (over and over and over), but not articulated with any kind of precision, and has more to do with the punditry latching on to an easy, cheap narrative than anything resembling actual viewpoints of actual people. Or even actual words from the actual Senator’s mouth.

    It may be that her policy approach is out of line with the progressive base, and that may in fact deter her from garnering the nomination. Certainly, critiques of her studied adherence to incrementalism, or her approach to Iraq, or even her (symbolic, and real) connection to establishment perspectives and interests, are reasonable. But recoiling because you feel she’s consciously projecting “inevitability”? That seems flimsy, reflexive, and unfair.

  3. RRK Jr posted a portion from one of his father’s speeches at HuffPo.

    The portion of the final paragraph that struck me is,”I urge you to learn the harsh facts that lurk behind the mask of official illusion with which we have concealed our true circumstances, even from ourselves. Our country is in danger: not just from foreign enemies; but above all, from our misguided policies.

    Hillary’s endless positioning dance is sickening me, and though I’ll be out there with a sign in hand and stickers on the bumper if that’s was it comes to, I’m gonna keep mailing Barack the bucks, even if it only ends up making Hillary a better candidate.

    I’ve come to believe that Barack’s life experience and the depth of his intellect make him the best candidate. But be forewarned, the new strategic vision for the Middle East from any candidate does not include walking away from Preznit PissyPants mess.

    If Barack is in the room, he’s the smartest one there. That is why he feeds the Bobby lust that has never gone away. Read the RFK piece.

  4. When Clinton was keynote speaker at the 1988 Dukakis convention, Beltway insiders said “Watch this guy; he could be the next nominee.” He was.

    After the ’92 election, the pundits said “next time’s Dole’s turn to top the GOP ticket.” He was.

    After Dole lost, they said “Bush will be the next.” He was. After McCain was sandbagged, then after the Florida debacle, I felt I’d witnessed a royalist coup with the media approving it.

    So yeah, you’re right, there’s a part of me fed up with the Beltway insiders and the MSM, regularly anointing each royal successor. But that’s not all of it, not by any means.

    First of all, I was never enamored of Big Bill. By my standards, he was right of center on way too much: capital punishment and welfare deform, to name two pet peeves. Compared to Bush, he was fabulous, but that’s an especially low bar to rate against. By my standards, he was average and the typical approach he used was to compromise on everything. I never saw a principle he’d fight for, throughout. And, because Hillary was regularly included in policy, I presume her positions are similar. Recent ratings only show Nelson of Nebraska, Landrieu and Lieberman more conservative than HC among all the Senate Dems.

    Second, by pandering to the insurance companies, HC botched a healthcare plan when 2/3rds of the country was supportive. That was the first major strike against her, to me.

    Third, the war. We just spent 6 years with a prez whose arrogance is the overall tone and weakness of his presidency. Hillary decided to forgo an apology as part of a political calculation. I’m fed up with calculation. I want genuineness. The last thing we need is someone more concerned with posturing than with speaking from the heart. I mean, half a million people are dead, 53,000 US troops are dead or injured. That doesn’t require an apology?

    Now Obama’s short on specifics and long on charisma. Edwards is also pro-death penalty and a little too right of centrist, despite his genuine concern for the poor. Richardson’s solid on foreign policy, Indian policy, immigration, but was not too helpful with the election law irregularities in New Mexico. (I’ll skip the others as I believe these are the 4 most likely to be around by Feb 1).

    As you note, they all have flaws. And these aren’t flaws created by the media or opponents, they’re self-made.

    My choice will be made on their strengths and flaws. The IC factor is the least of my concerns and won’t factor into my final decision. What will factor in is how much of their funds came from corporations and the people fronting for the same, vs. smaller donors.

    Obama helped eliminate the notion of an IC, which helps a lot. Now I hope the campaigns can focus on performance behind and policy ahead instead of maintaining artificial perceptions built on their begging skills.

  5. Hi,

    Just a quick note to say I’m so glad I found this blog (Via the headscarf “debate” on LGF).

    After a few weeks of browsing the comments on LGF I was beginning to worry that Americans were all totally insane/ignorant and/or just plain stupid.

    As an English person, some of the recent comments on LGF about England, the British soldiers captured in Iran and Europe in general have been offensive, ill informed (quoting a paragraph from an RightWing English tabloid doesn’t make you an expert on life this side of the pond) and poorly thought out.

    To Paraphrase a hundred comments from the armchair generals:

    “Blair didn’t drop nukes on Iran – thus the English are a nation of “terrorist lovers” and “appeasers” under the thumb of the Islamofacuists who have taken over the country.”

  6. Sylvia — Thanks for dropping by. You’re welcome here anytime. Unlike most of the LGF readers I have a passport and have actually been to England (and Wales). I even ate a full English breakfast three days in a row and survived. 🙂

    The British sailors are home safe, right? No one was killed, no bombs were dropped. It’s done. Everyone’s healthy and apparently untraumatized. The LGFers would have started a war, slaughtered thousands, and defoliated whatever there is in the Middle East to defoliate. Just, you know, because.

  7. How, precisely, has Senator Clinton exhibited this Borg-like behavior?

    It isn’t her so much as the punditocracy, which isn’t fair to her, but the fact is that most of why I don’t want her to be the nominee has little to do with anything she’s actually done or not done (save support Bush’s war policy way too long). I’m more angry about how candidates are chosen than I am at her.

  8. First, Hi Sylvia! I am glad you found Maha’s blog, at least something good came out of all the wasted hot air the scarf generated!

    Now on to the meat:..out here in middle America I find that people are annoyed with the media for crowning Hill “the candidate” It seems to the people I have spoken to that they feel the media wants to see a hill/rudy cage match and they don’t really care who wins the blow out they just want to see the blood fly.They wanted the fight soooooooo badly in 2000 when both candidates were trying to win the NY senate seat and they were foiled by rudy’s cancer…Did you get that? The media got ripped off ….who cares whether either of these candidates would be worth a damn or not for our country?…just think of the ratings “the fight” will bring.It reminds me of the wannabe brides who put all of their thought into the wedding day and No thought into the actual marriage that follows.
    I don’t drink, but I recently found the local small town watering hole and I LOVE to go in there at news time and just listen to people talk…I have found people here are annoyed as hell at the thought “the media” has already decided who our candidates will be.Folks here are in no mood for the bullshit…after 6 years of it the patience seems to be wearing real thin.Frankly they want what is best for the country for a change, not some fight the media feels like they lost out on.They seem to share the view that they resent being told who the candidates will be before a single vote has been cast…and perhaps they wouldn’t mind seeing the rudy vs.hill cage match so we could just be done with both of them.
    The media has made this into a circus…but folks around here have seen the circus come to town before and we KNOW what the circus leaves behind…(a lot of crap to clean up)….IF Hill and rudy were the best candidates on the planet it wouldn’t matter anymore to folks here the circus that surrounds them is all voters will see.
    Yes it seems the media picked the two candidates that THEY would most enjoy going at it and the fact that neither of them may be worth a damn for our country doesn’t even matter because think of the fun they will have covering the abortion they created for the next 4 years!!!!
    What I don’t think they counted on was how Angry that idea has left the voting public here.

  9. There a couple of things I suspect but can’t prove. One, I suspect much of the aura of Inevitable Candidate was wrapped about Sen. Clinton by the Right, because she’s the candidate they most want to run against in 2008.

    Here’s another: that maybe some of Hillary’s $25 mil came from Republicans. Some day, Hillary might in fact be a partly-owned subsidiary of The Vast Right-wing Conspiracy.

  10. Today’s Boston Globe also has an editorial worth reading, “the true cost of campaigning”.

    The sheer volume of money being raised may make us queasy but the fallout that can be directly attributed to donations from the largest contributors (corporations) should make us want to vomit.

    As the editorial points out, we lost six years on the fight against global warming since Bush flip-flopped so as to appease his big contributors (allegedly?!). That’s six big years we can never get back. The fundraising for the next election cycle reportedly will top $1 billion. What will that buy the next big spender?

    Unfortunately for me, the only ones I really like aren’t even running. My ultimate candidate is a mix of Biden (Iraq policy), Dorgan (middle-class issues), Conrad (economics) and Feingold (steadfast in his beliefs-without the petulance).

  11. I’m just wondering…Both Hillary and Obama have invisible barriers to overcome. Racism and sexism in America..although we like to think that America has progressed to the point where those issues are behind us I wonder how powerful those unseen forces will be against either one should they get the nomination. I think( know?) historically the White House has been the domain of Anglo-American males..Has America grown enough to expand that domain?
    My understanding is that racism and sexism is alive and well in America.

  12. “There are a couple of things I suspect but can’t prove. One, I suspect much of the aura of Inevitable Candidate was wrapped about Sen. Clinton by the Right, because she’s the candidate they most want to run against in 2008.”

    This is what I believe to be the complete and ultimate reason. The evidence is many examples of the MSM, beltway pundits being nothing more than stenographers for the Republican Party. Glenn Greenwald, Bob Somerby, Media Matters, and many other bloggers including Maha have documented this quite well. The Republicans already have their strategy for campaigning against Hillary in the works. How dare us nominate any one else! Like Maha said and others, I want the candidate to be someone who will win and then govern well. The governing may not always be as I would like it (such as world peace); but, if it is done with an intent to achieve the impossible task of cleaning up this mess the Republicans have made; and if that person can return some honesty and fairness back to the American people, that will be great.

    Actually, I hope the nominee will be a someone who comes out of nowhere late and makes all these Republican stenos do some real hard, soul-sweating homework. That person will need to be prepared to fight back against every dirty trick that will be thrown at that person but won’t have to do it alone because of the liberal and progressive bloggers. I kind of think Howard Dean would be fun. I think “the scream” can be overcome with some real hardhitting by a truth and justice squad. It would put the MSM in shock long enough for some truth and policy, etc., to get out. It’s just a thought that came to me as I wrote this.

    Let’s work to surprise the MSM and beltway pundits and win.

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  14. Have you read Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope”? His answers on TV appear to be well thought out and reasonable.

    AND he has been against the war in Iraq from the very beginning.

    If Ms. Clinton would disavow the war it would help her.

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