Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hillary Diplomacy

I've watched a lot of freaking out on TV and in blogs and other reports regarding Hillary's speech preceding Obama's St Paul speech. Oh no, she didn't suspend or concede or... She did start out referring to SD as having the last word, just over an hour later MT was the last word where Obama did win. She did make a few possibly flawed arguments and patted herself on the back and managed to compliment Obama on a great campaign. She wants to look at where to go and how to care for her 18 million voters. She wants leverage.

Hillary has a very narrow window to make any plays with her leverage. All her voters are not fixed in place, some are. The some are the question, the ones who won't vote Obama per the exit polls. Those voters are a minority and not a coherent group, there are those who await Hillary's word, there are those who will ignore any unity call. Most of Hillary's supporters are Democrats who will back the Party nominee, they won't be held hostage by a losing candidate.

It is surely the case that the voters awaiting Hillary's unity call will wait for her and absent it what they would do is questionable. These people are an important piece of the Democratic vote and not to be lost lightly. But here is the rub for Hillary whatever her level of Party loyalty may or may not be, the Party has the power to destroy her. If the Party sees Hillary playing too loosely with its chances for November the warnings will be stark.

I do not buy into the school of thought that places Hillary in some totally egocentric category where the Party that has allowed her and her family to thrive has none of her loyalty. I believe that she and her advisers ran the campaign they knew how to run and that it took her very nearly to the nomination - at the expense of driving up both candidate's negatives. If you look at Hillary and the people surrounding her and their histories the campaign makes perfect sense. I may believe it was fatally flawed in strategy and tactics both for her and the Party, but it very nearly worked for the Primary. It may have been a good General Election operation, though I believe the strategy would have come up short, the tactics might have been good. She benefited tremendously in her tactics from running against a candidate who did not take off the gloves. Her campaign does not signal a Party disloyalty, it does not signal egomania, it does signal an old style attack politics.

Hillary does not want this Primary to be her swan song, she wants to be a power in Democratic politics and a player of national import. This is an important piece, what has happened in this election just created a new power bloc, Obama's. Obama should be able to win this election, with Hillary's help, but that will mean four to eight years of time for a new power center to entrench itself and begin drawing to itself the strands of power and it will not be the Clinton power bloc finding a new home beyond what Hillary can carve out. The McAuliff DNC is now officially dead. Terry McAuliff and Harold Ickes are done, they can be bit players here and there but their model of Democratic politics is done for the foreseeable future and they're not young.

The road to keeping a Clinton power base is not in the Vice-presidency, the office holds no actual power. Dick Cheney is an aberration (and some other things). If Hillary took the VP Obama would be forced to bury her - and more importantly, Bill. Hillary must know this, this has to have been discussed late at night where only walls could hear, she hangs with some hard ball players. The VP is a place to go and watch her power slowly drain away. Cabinet posts might give her a basis to actuate some things she cares about, HHS would put health care very much in her hands - beneath the President - but it is also an invisible position. Anything inside the Executive Branch is a place for political power to dissipate.

Her position of 34th in Senate seniority doesn't hold a lot of swat, in itself. She is now a Senator with a powerful public voice in her own right; not as Bill's wife with a so-what junior senator ship on his coattails. Majority Leader isn't in the cards, there are way too many experienced and well senior Senators between her and it. She can make a case for a Chair and with a President's backing and a grateful Party that case could be strong.

There has been speculation about the Supreme Court, her legal background is very thin in that regard, but that has not been a bar previously. With election politics removed she might well find a backbone on the matter of principles. I am not comfortable with her stance on some issues involving the Bill of Rights and I'd probably oppose her (for all that counts). I do have to admit that there would be a certain amount of enjoyment to be found in watching the wing nuts' heads explode. This would remove her and her family from influence in electoral politics, pretty completely. That might be a trade I could live with.

If Obama wins the General Election Hillary is done in Presidential politics, her power base is now falling apart - witness the DNC RBC. Alliances based on influence are beginning to wane and that process will only accelerate under Obama. Other women will begin to gain national prominence whether Obama picks one as VP or not. Even if Obama were to pick a male for VP that would not bar changing to a woman for a second term if the male were an older man.

Hillary Clinton will be an asset to Obama's campaign because she will want a Democratic victory and because strategically she has no choice. If people don't lose their minds and start throwing conniption fits this will be fine. So, let's get to work getting Obama elected.


Anonymous said...

Damn thems a lot of words.
Not thet I disagree with you neccessarily, but might want to edit that down if you want to be taken seriously.

Thomas Smith

Jeffrey Hardy Quah said...

Maybe if you didn't have the attention span of a jellyfish caught on fire...