Hillary Clinton can not win the Democratic nomination for president. The numbers tell the story. Even with robust victories in Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky, Hillary will trail Obama in popular votes and pledged delegates as they enter the convention hall in Denver.
Any other candidate would have been shamed into dropping out long ago. But these are the Clintons and they have no shame.
So why does Hillary persist? Because she hasn’t abandoned her aspiration for the White House. Not in 2008, but for 2012. Here’s the perverse logic at work.
If Obama defeats McCain in November, it will take an act of treachery beyond anything even the Clintons have ever conjured from their grimoire of political demonology for Hillary to challenge him in 2012. She will be 69 in 2016, almost ready to move into one of the Beverly Nursing Homes, owned by a company she once represented as a corporate lawyer, aggressively protecting the bottom line against such extravagances as healthy meals, clean sheets and proper medical care for the elderly.
Hillary Clinton is the prisoner of an unimpeachable mathematics. So she makes the most of a remorseless situation by doing what the Clintons do best: commit political fratricide. Quite literally, in this case, by knocking off a brother.
In order to realize her vaulting ambition, Hillary must mortally wound Obama as candidate in the fall race against John McCain so that she can run against McCain in 2012.
McCain is at best a one term president. The signs of this are as clear as the scar jagging down his face. McCain, whose resemblance to Lon Chaney becomes eerier by the day, is already an old man, older than Reagan when he was first elected. He is plagued by a cancer he refuses to speak about, a war he refuses to end and an economy that is collapsing beyond the point of recovery. Add to this prospectus, the fact that McCain is prone to the most self-destructive impulses of any American politician since Aaron Burr. His political fate will be sealed before he even swears his oath.
Thus Hillary’s berserker strategy against Obama. (For more on “berserkerism” see the SF novels of Fred Saberhagen.)
Down in Mark Penn’s dark computer lab, the data culled from pulse polls and focus groups probing the hidden prejudices in the psyche of white America are being packed like shrapnel into political landmines set for Obama: he’s unpatriotic, he’s un-Christian, he’s a Palestinian symp and, yes, he’s black. That’s three strikes and one head shot.
Exploitation of racial panic is second nature to the power couple Ishmael Reed calls Ma and Pa Clinton. Bill Clinton launched his 1992 campaign by personally overseeing the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a brain-damaged young black man. He wagged his finger at the rapper Sister Souljah, denouncing her music and political opinions as a danger to young minds. The Clintons pilloried their one-time friend Lani Guinier, for her legal writings on the status of blacks and women and booted Dr. Jocelyn Elders from her position as Surgeon General for her refreshingly candid statements about the utility of condoms and masturbation for sexually active youths.
And that’s how they treated people they knew. At a structural level, the Clintons’ economic and social agenda, incubated at the conservative Democratic Leadership Council, struck directly at poorest precincts of America, targeting blacks and Hispanics with a fervor not seen since Pat Buchanan and Kevin Phillips crafted the infamous Southern Strategy for Richard Nixon. Hence, the dismantling of welfare, harsh federal crime bills, the refusal to intervene against racial profiling or redress the grievous injustices caused by the racially-motivated sentences handed out for crack cocaine.
The fallout from Ms. Clinton’s racially-tinged blitz against Obama will spread far and wide across her party like the toxic particles from a nuclear blast. They’ve done it all before. The Clintons’ reckless first two years in the White House, from the heavy-handed Travel Office fiasco to the fires of Waco and HRC’s sophomoric bungling of the health care reform, spurred the GOP takeover of congress in 1994, which they used to their political profit. Then in 1996, Clinton refused to allocate DNC money to tight senate and congressional races, a miserly tactic that allowed the faltering Republicans to retain control of both houses of Congress. It was a cynical decision that many high-ranking Democrats believe constituted a deliberate sabotage of the party’s prospects, designed to secure a monopoly-like control of the party apparatus for the Clintons, turning the DNC into their own private PAC.
That’s the logic of triangulation. The daisy-cutter tactics of Hillary’s current campaign might be called pre-emptive triangulation. The Clintons enrich themselves politically by looting the ruins of their own party.
Look how swiftly her campaign knee-capped her friend Bill Richardson. After working sedulously for Richardson’s endorsement only to lose out to Obama, Mark Penn dismissed the governor as “irrelevant.” On Good Friday, Clinton intimate James Carville denounced Richardson as “a Judas.”
Clinton believes she must destroy the party in order to save it-for herself. But her campaign geared at women and white working class voters relies on a perversion of the past. The recent past at that, as if they believe that the American electorate is blinking out from a kind of political Alzheimer’s, where the short-term goes first. Perhaps that’s why Penn and his pack of geeks geared their themes to appeal to geezers and grandparents. Clintontime is recast as a glittering epoch of peace and prosperity. Yet this was a decade when Iraq was bombed every three days and a half-million people died under the cruel sanctions regime, when cruise missiles were launched on Sudan and Afghanistan to divert popular attention from blow-jobs and thong-snapping interns, when an illegal air war was orchestrated against Serbia, racking up thousands of civilian casualties and the ongoing bloodbath against peasants in South America known as Plan Colombia, the drug war that keeps on killing.
The Clinton 90s was a time when the economic chasm in America between the rich and everyone else deepened and widened profoundly, under the command of Alan Greenspan and Wall Street maestro Robert Rubin, and the social safety nets protecting the most vulnerable among us where shorn in the name of political pragmatism. The Clintons evoke a nostalgia for a time that never was. If you require objective confirmation of the economic enervation unleashed by the Clinton program consult Contours of Descent, economist Robert Pollin’s brilliant dissection of that dismal era.
This coarse reality is transparent to those who lived through it and still suffer the aftershocks of the Clintons’ neoliberal program. That’s one reason why almost the only blacks to back HRC are encrusted members of Congressional Black Caucus and corporate shills like Andrew Young, who whitewashed Nike’s crimes against workers in its Asian sweat-factories. Both camps are old hands at palming political gratuities and walking around money.
Meanwhile, Obama plays the role of willing victim like he spent years studying Italian frescos on the torments of St. Sebastian. He exudes a sense of entitlement nearly as all-engrossing as the Clintons and compounds this with a martydom complex that dramatizes the wounding of each slingshot and arrow lobbed his way.
Although it’s not strictly attuned to her peculiar pathology, Hillary could almost call it quits right now, even before she claims Pennsylvania as a scalp. She has fatally toxified Obama and almost certainly secured the White House for her good friend John McCain.
Hillary is following the Reagan model. In 1976, Ronald Reagan bled Gerald Ford through the long winter and spring months, before bludgeoning him the late primary in Pennsylvania. As told in Adam Clymer’s new book, Drawing the Line at the Big Ditch: the Panama Canal Treaties and the Rise of the Right, Reagan finally found a theme to his weird internecine challenge in the Panama Canal Treaty. Reagan fell short in the end, but he had hobbled Ford, who stumbled and fell against Carter in the fall election. Carter inherited a stagnant economy, soaring oil prices and a simmering crisis in the Middle East. Reagan easily unseated Carter in the 1980 election. The Clintons are shrewd enough to detect the striking historical parallels here and craven enough to exploit them for their own long-term advantage.
The Clinton war room may still throb to the beats of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” But late at night, when Mandy Grunwald has slipped on her flannels and Mark Penn has powered-down his Cray super-computer, Hillary and Bill will surely toast their strange time-delayed victory to the chords of McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.”
JEFFREY ST. CLAIR is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and Grand Theft Pentagon. His newest book, Born Under a Bad Sky, will be published this spring. He can be reached at: email@example.com.