13 May 2008

Hillary's Motivation and Pickett's Charge

Many have been asking why Hillary Clinton remains in the Democratic presidential race. It's fairly clear that she has little chance of securing the nomination without destroying the party in the process. She is behind in ALL relevant statistical categories: pledged delegates, superdelegates, states won, and popular vote. How about a graceful exit?

There are those who see Machiavellian political motives in all of Clinton's actions: she is maneuvering for the Vice-Presidency, she needs Obama's help to pay her bills, she secretly wants to wreck his chances so she can run in 2012. There might be other sinister conspiratorial theories--but I don't accept this sort of reasoning.

Generally speaking, I think political motives are often much simpler than the talking-heads imagine. Why is Senator Clinton still in this race, I think her reasoning is actually easy to figure out. Everything that Hillary and Bill have done since 1992 has worked (except that blow-job incident). Events have always broken their way, and they have rarely had to pay a large political price for mistakes. One could even say they have been invincible. And when you think you are invincible, that is what determines your strategy. Hillary Clinton still believes she is going to win this nomination. She cannot envision defeat--even though a defeat appears inevitable. And in fact, the Clinton history of the past 16 years serves to reinforce her current strategy: fight hard, spin, hang around, act as if events are going your way, smile.....and things will work out.

(now for the historians in the crowd) After Robert E. Lee sent George Pickett on his famous charge at Gettysburg, many later wondered how Lee could have made such a foolish decision (that's Pickett's dashing picture at top of post). Some historians have cited overconfidence on Lee's part--he thought he and his troops were invincible. And as Shelby Foote has pointed out, the first few years of the war actually did show that he and his army was nearly invincible. But invincibility doesn't last forever and it invites the obvious overstretch. For Lee, it was Pickett's Charge in July of 1863.

This is the Pickett's Charge of the Clinton years. This will be the race that didn't work out, no miracles, no last-minute breaks, nothing will save her this time. But the reasoning is understandable. When everything has gone your way time and time again--you develop a mindset that it will continue.

That's why she is still in the race. It's as simple as that.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see you back DEW. I missed you!!!

CSP 2003

Anonymous said...

DEW what is your take on the notion that Hillary's stubborness is actually benefiting Obama by diverting some Republican [Conservative] attention that would otherwise be focused on him? Or the idea that the Clinton/Obama competition, mythic as it may be, is all that has kept this endless campaign season interesting for the majority of voters?
Has Mccain become the forgotten man as his place in the press is dwarfed by the sparing Dems? An outsider could understandably be led to believe that Obama/Clinton are fighting for the presidency, and not simply the Democratic nomination, based on the coverage their getting.

CSP 2003