Maybe you’re not like me, but I open the op-ed page for directives from the liberal media. Most of the time, however, the liberal media disappoints. I get instead a kind of post game breakdown of the sort you’d find in the most technical of sports sections. There’s an election going on, as some of you may know, and the candidates (in particular the Democrats) are out there making their case–"vote for me because of I am a better fit for the job–my judgment, record, etc., make me so." So, liberal media, who is better? Let’s ask E.J.Dionne:
To be sure, just about everyone anticipated that when the field
narrowed, Clinton would be one of the contenders left standing. She had
won allies from her work for her husband and in the Senate, was helped
by the residual affection for Bill Clinton in many parts of the party, and created a support base among women.
But the scenario-builders pondering this contest two years ago imagined
a showdown between Clinton and — let’s be honest — a white guy. It
was thought that a moderate Democrat (popular choices included Mark Warner of Virginia and Evan Bayh of Indiana) would cast himself as the "electable" alternative to the "divisive" Clinton.
Alternatively, John Edwards
had the chance to go at Clinton from her left (he’d run against
"Clintonomics" as the pro-labor, mill-town-born populist) and from her
right (he was, after all, a Southern white man).
Obama upended all these calculations. Warner and Bayh understood how
much the race had changed and decided not to run. Obama bested Edwards
in Iowa, effectively blocking Edwards’s only path to contention.
He doesn’t care. While his conservative colleagues stake out clear positions and defend them–urging others to believe as they do–Dionne can’t bother do anything other than, er, color commentary:
Against anyone but Obama, Clinton could have counted on strong support from African Americans. Against an Adlai Stevenson–Gary Hart–Paul Tsongas–Bill Bradley
sort of reformer, she would have assembled the "regular" Democratic
coalition: blue-collar whites allied with black voters. This is, more
or less, how Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton and Al Gore
prevailed in the primaries. Against a centrist, Clinton would have won
the liberals. Her strength among women would have provided her with
Obama not only created an alliance between African Americans and
upscale reform voters, but he also changed the composition of the
Democratic electorate by drawing in hundreds of thousands of voters
under age 30.
To me this is just baffling. I can see how this would be interesting from the perspective of political operatives or political scientists. But most of us are rather interested in who is a better fit for the job. Dionne assumes however we are like him. We’re interested in who runs the better campaign organization rather than who, for Pete’s sake, is better for the job. It’s a little early, in other words, for an explanation.
Because the Clinton campaign failed to anticipate the imperatives of a
race against Obama, it was only in the past two weeks that she managed
to move to offense. Her campaign has gone back to its basic argument
that, love her or not, Clinton is the experienced fighter who can be
trusted to deal with a nasty world and a decaying economy. She’s trying
to turn Obama’s newness into inexperience, his eloquence into slickness
and his conciliatory nature into a form of softness. It is no accident
that her "red phone" ad about her readiness to be president was created
by a veteran of Mondale’s campaign who made a similar ad against Gary
Hart in 1984.
And to conclude:
This is not the campaign Clinton had hoped to run, but it’s the one
approach she has left, and it’s had the effect of forcing Obama to
respond to her. You wonder what would have happened if she had adjusted
That’s not really what I’m wondering. I wonder if anyone can explain what this article was about.
3 thoughts on “Post Game”
He’s writing a serial history of the Democratic campaign for president. All he has to do is collate them at the end, and he has a book ready to go. It will be titled Musings on Counterfactuals Without Any Evidence.
When I read things like this, I picture a hung-over columnist realizing that his or her deadline is in 45 minutes and nothing has been written. They crank out some John Madden-esque color commentary and Telestrator scrawlings consisting largely of armchair public psychology, "conventional wisdom," sweeping generalizations, and flimsy assertions. The editor politiely accepts it, realizing that the columnist is Very Serious and Well-Known. More importantly, the editor knows that slop like this is exactly what most readers already believe and therefore they will thoroughly enjoy the read. It will make readers feel very smart to see that someone as exalted as EJ Dionne has the same Reader’s Digest-like view of history.
Musings on Counterfactuals Without Any Evidence.Obviously, you’ve read my work.
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