Saturday, November 15, 2008

Estrich on Clinton

Estrich: "Hillary Could Have Won" (yawn)

With the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? buzz in the air, some PUMAs just never give up. Susan Estrich:
More of McCain's voters would have voted for Hillary than Obama voters for McCain. Based on the exit polls, Hillary not only would have won, but she would have won by more than Obama did.

There is no point in crying over spilled milk, especially when there is a fresh carton on the table.

Yet she is doing just that. Estrich continues:
Those of us who yearned to see a woman -- and specifically a woman named Hillary Clinton -- take the oath on January 20 can at least find solace in the knowledge that we were right about the most important issue: She was electable. She could have won
Riiight, Susan. Because you know so much about winning from running the campaign of President Dukakis.

OK, OK, that was too snarky; let's address the meat of the argument.

"Hillary would have meant no Sarah Palin." True that, double true. But another running mate would only have made McCain stronger.

"With Hillary, there would have been no experience issue." Because, of course, Obama can't win because of the experience issue. McCain ceded that anyway, and none of the other potential running mates--Pawlenty, Romney, Crist--come even close to Joe Biden.

"With Hillary, the Democratic base of low-income white voters would have been solid." Obama held onto most of that, except in Appalachian enclaves, and also had big wins in the Hispanic and Jewish communities that he "couldn't win." New Mexico? Blue. Florida? Blue.

Estrich leaves two major points unsaid. First, Obama's margin of victory came from young people, uniquely energized by Obama and strongly opposed to the war that Clinton voted for. Put Hillary at the top of the ticket, and plenty of those voters stay home or throw a protest vote to Nader, Barr or McKinney.

The other thing Estrich leaves unsaid is the pathological hatred the right wing feels for the Clintons. Sure, they toned it down, even made cynical appeals to Clinton and her supporters, but only when it was clear she had lost the nomination and that Hillary-bashing was no longer in their best interest.

You think the socialist, pallin' around with terrorist stuff was bad? Just go back to the tapes of the Republican debates, where Rudy Giuliani said "Hillarycare" almost as much as he said "9/11." Go back to the Limbaugh and O'Reilly archives from 1992 till about Super Tuesday 2008.

So with Hillary, McCain gains the plus of an angry, energized base without the minus of Palin to alienate moderates and independents, and the Democrats get no youth vote surge. To me, that spells a much closer race, not a bigger Democratic win.

Nate The Great at FiveThirtyEight
expounds on this:
What would Clinton's numbers have looked like if she had actually endured ... you know ... a campaign? What would Clinton's numbers have looked like after the Republicans had gotten done accusing her of being a socialist, a puppet for her husband, and an all-around conniving you-know-what?

Hillary Clinton might have beaten John McCain by more than Barack Obama did. She also might have lost to him.

But--and this is more important than the argument itself--why ask the question in the first place?

Senator Clinton and former president Clinton reconciled themselves to the loss, knocked the ball out of the park with their convention speeches, and campaigned enthusiastically and effectively (she more so) for Obama. If they're over it, why isn't Estrich? Is this about Hillary Clinton, the person, or is this the generational angst of "I want a woman president before I die?"

The Democrats had a Hobson's choice in the primaries. Nominate Clinton, and risk alienating an entire generation of enthusiastic young voters. Nominate Obama, and injure the founding mothers of the feminist movement.

The Democrats chose the future over the past, and that may have actually increased the chances of a female president in our lifetimes. Perhaps not in our mother's lifetimes, but in our daughter's. Looking at the presidential returns and the Proposition 8 returns from California, we see a new generation of voters that's more progressive on issues social, economic, and international. They're more open-minded to something new, like say, a woman president.

A Clinton loss to McCain in a scorched-earth general election might have pushed The Ultimate Glass Ceiling With 18 Million Cracks several notches higher. But Clinton's campaign, and in a way Obama's win, lowers that barrier. Let's hope that when it breaks, it's not a cynical token like Sarah Palin and more of a qualified leader like Hillary Clinton.

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