Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

20 February 2008

Hillary’s Last Stand

The results for Wisconsin are almost all in. With 96% of precincts reporting, Obama leads Clinton by 17 percent, 58% to 41%. It’s another landslide to add to Obama’s string of overwhelming victories in red states.

What makes this victory so meaningful is that it wasn’t supposed to be anywhere that big. Isn’t Wisconsin one of those manufacturing states that have been hemorrhaging jobs for as long as anyone can remember? Doesn’t it have a lot of white, rural, blue collar workers without a college education? Aren’t they supposed to be Hillary’s constituency?

Think again. The more people hear Hillary repeating “my experience,” “my 35 years,” and “ready on day one,” the more they turn off. Most folks don’t like to hear people—especially politicians—talking constantly about themselves. That sort of stuff might go over well in New York or California, where self-promotion is as natural as breathing. But not in the Midwest.

It’s not just Hillary’s little mantras. It’s her proposals, too. There are very few things that Richard Nixon and the Soviet Union’s last leaders ever agreed upon. But they all agreed that a “command” economy, with mandates and price controls, doesn’t work. Hillary has mandates in her health-care plan and price controls in her mortgage-crisis plan. What planet is she living on? Maybe she just doesn’t understand economics.

Hillary’s biggest problem is that she has a ceiling. As the queen ready to be crowned and the first serious candidate of her gender, she once had a big, ready-made constituency hungry for an easy Democratic victory. But the past three months have seen Democrats leave that constituency in droves.

Why? The more you get to know Hillary, the less you like her. It’s not just the thought of listening for four years to someone whose favorite subject is herself. Nor is it just her economic policies, which no one from Nixon to Gorbachev would touch, with the possible exception of now-retired Fidel Castro.

It’s her character. Who would spend a lifetime promoting racial harmony and then throw it all away by playing the race card just to win a primary or two? Who would twist in the wind on minor issues, like whether New York gives undocumented aliens drivers’ licenses to keep the roads safer? Who would highlight, as a closing argument in an important primary, that her opponent used a few lines from another politician without proper attribution? Do these acts show a sense of perspective?

But you have to give Hillary one thing. She just doesn’t quit. The Wall Street Journal’s columnist Peggy Noonan likened her to Rasputin, the “mad monk” from pre-Soviet Russia:
    “Deep down journalists think she’s a political Rasputin who will not be dispatched. Prince Yusupov served him cupcakes laced with cyanide, emptied a revolver, clubbed him, tied him up and threw him in a frozen river. When he floated to the surface they found he’d tried to claw his way from under the ice. That is how reporters see Hillary.”
In her next paragraph Noonan disclaimed the analogy as over the top, although she didn’t delete it.

Yet even Noonan missed Hillary’s essence. While Hillary seems to have Rasputin’s legendary tenacity, ambition, and unscrupulousness, she is no Rasputinova. Rasputin was human. He had some sort of compelling animal magnetism that historians can’t explain.

Hillary is more like a poorly programmed robot. If she went under the ice (politically speaking) she would just subside into the frigid water, repeating in a mechanically cheerful voice, “my experience,” “my 35 years,” and “ready on day one.” Maybe Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania will put a quick end to this race and spare her that ignominy.


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  • At Wed Feb 20, 03:34:00 AM EST, Blogger jrn7 said…

    Great diatribe, Jay.

  • At Wed Feb 20, 02:27:00 PM EST, Anonymous Ron Chusid said…

    You are assuming that this is Hillary's last stand, but she is not giving up that easily. When everything else fails there is yet one more course course of action which she has decided to try: change the rules


  • At Wed Feb 20, 09:28:00 PM EST, Blogger jay said…

    Dear Ron,

    Thanks for the comment and the link.

    I've already posted my own comment on this point, which is somewhat darker than yours.

    By the way, you (and other commenters) should feel free to post active links from comments on this site. This post shows how. (Use the second or absolute form, with the "http://" and be sure to use straight up quotation marks, not left and right ones.)

    I can't make your links active after your comment is posted. I can only accept or reject comments, not modify them. That's probably a good thing.



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