Reader Catharine Liddicoat has some thoughts that my fellow Obama fans and I would do well to ponder as we try to move forward together with the Clinton fans. With her permission, I am posting her note to me in full:
Thank you for your remarks on today’s speech by Senator Hillary Clinton and for your comments on the absurdity of Sean’s “rehabilitate herself” post at FiveThirtyEight.
You say you couldn’t have bet that Hillary would do it so well. And that’s the problem: People so anxious for “change” that it destroyed their objectivity latched on to Obama’s rock-star candidacy and it colored their perceptions of Clinton. ‘The Happy Warrior” you saw today was there all along, but with special strength and passion in the last few months.
Perhaps you finally noticed this because your Obama has “won” after a long, hard-fought campaign that left many of us feeling deserted by our party.
In one of your previous posts you (or maybe one of the other writers at your site) wrote that Obama would “wipe the floor” with Hillary in a head-to-head Lincoln/Douglas style debate. That comment made me so angry at the time that it took a lot not to respond with a nasty email. And then Obama failed to rise to the challenge when Hillary suggested such a debate.
Naturally, this was excused as a “smart move” by the frontrunner, but, frankly, I believe that Obama did not have the courage to face Hillary one-on-one, because she would have embarrassed him. When Obama is “off script,” he isn’t that good, and that showed in
some of the “engineered” debates.
I stopped reading “The Reality-Based Community” a few months ago, after having been a faithful reader of your well-considered work for at least two(?) years, maybe even longer. I recommended the site to my coworkers and friends, but that was before the anti-Hillary/ Obama-as-messiah bias crept in during the primaries. Over the past few months I stopped reading you and Josh Marshall at TPM (another favorite) for the sake of my blood pressure. I will now resume reading both blogs to keep informed as we move forward to defeat John McCain and, I hope, take back our country.
But I will never again fully trust liberal or progressive blogs, or the Democratic Party.
In my opinion, Hillary Clinton would make the better president and I can’t help feeling that this election was stolen from her, even though she could have run a better campaign in some ways and Obama ran a better campaign. Sadly, and for many reasons including a preposterous DNC candidate selection process, we are “stuck” with Barack Obama. Obama is not yet ready to
be president, but the alternative (McCain) would be disastrous, so I’ll support Obama and hope to heck I’m wrong about his lack of experience and what I feel is poor judgement, no matter how much Obama proclaims that he shows “better judgement.”
Again, though, I truly appreciate your remarks on today’s Clinton speech — a remarkable and beautiful way to conclude her campaign. As a woman and committed feminist who will probably not live to see a female elected to our nation’s highest office, I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes even as I cheered Hillary’s words.
I will allow myself just two points in response:
1. Loyalty to a candidate, even once that candidate gets in trouble, and eagerness to defend that candidate from attacks, does not constitute messianism. The attempt to convert Obama’s capacity to inspire strong commitment into a weakness by calling his campaign a “cult” was among the nastiest of this season’s campaign tactics. Obama’s speeches were marked by his substitution of the first person plural for the first person singular: hardly a mark of messianic tendencies.
2. The notion that the election was “stolen” is another one of the Clinton campaign themes that helped generate the hostility Catharine Liddicoat laments. Admittedly, the Michigan allocation was a kludge. But there was no “fair” way to allocate delegates after a one-candidate primary. The maximalist Obama position — to simply ignore the primary and split the delegation evenly — was in some ways less illogical than trying to “adjust” the results, and in fact the Obama forces had the votes to push that through. Instead, they decided to compromise. Perhaps that was a mistake. But nothing could have been more illogical than the Clinton position, which was that a primary held against the rules, with neither side campaigning, with only one candidate on the ballot (and 30,000 write-ins not even counted), and which Clinton herself said in advance didn’t mean anything, should be given full authority in the allocation of delegates. To liken the admittedly imperfect resolution of that problem by the Rules and Bylaws Committee — with substantial support from Clinton allies on that committee — to Selma, Zimbabwe, and the three-fifths compromise was recklessly offensive. And it’s not the case that Clinton would have won had Florida and Michigan been seated in full based on the primary results; that simply would have drawn out the agony, and perhaps not by very many days. Obama would still have had a substantial lead in pledged delegates, and there’s no reason to think that the superdelegates would have been prepared to over-rule the primary and caucus results.
But none of that should be allowed to obscure Catharine Liddicoat’s central points: that Obama supporters (and, I would say, Clinton supporters) said and did some things in the course of the primary that struck the other side as unfair and unreasonable, and that acknowledging those wounds is an essential first step in beginning to heal them.
And that healing will have to go along at its own pace. Trying to force that pace by indignantly “proving” to Clinton supporters that they must now be Obama supporters is as counter-productive as it is impolite. Nobody likes a sore winner.
Update Another reader points out that the idea, vigorously pushed by the Obama team, that it would be improper (as opposed to merely unlikely) for the superdelegates to overrule the pledged delegates set the stage for the same sort of claim of a “stolen” nomination that we now find so offensive from the other side.