Primaries

I’m guessing the political affiliation of Pipeline People runs about 90% Democrat. But, that’s just a guess. Could be 75% or 95%. But heavily Dem, in any case.

I’m curious how many people are having the same reaction I’m having to the Dem primary season, which was to be happy when Obama won Iowa, but also strangely happy when Hillary won New Hampshire. I have no idea what that means, other than that I am not currently decided on a particular candidate.

I’m at risk of writing 1000 words in this post when I really intend to write about 100, so I’ll just make a point each about Obama and HRC.

Regarding Obama, it seems to me he has two primary advantages as a candidate, one being that he’s a clear break from the politics of the last…well, really, the last 28 years, considering the Bush/Clinton stranglehold on power began with Reagan’s election in 1980. That is obviously a huge advantage. Edwards could plausibly lay claim to that break with history as well, but that’s hard given he was on the last ticket. Second, Obama’s message of “unity”, though amorphous, is a strong one. I think most people can get behind some amorphous unity right now. But if Obama truly is a uniter, won’t the Dem primary process be somewhat diagnostic? If he can’t unite enough of a coalition of Democrats when he has a polarizing opponent like HRC, then I’m not sure how he will bring people in from the other side of the aisle in any real way. But clearly, the short week of Obamamania after Iowa showed how quickly the country (and the media) would be able to get used to the idea of Obama as Uniter. We’ll see how that all goes.

As for HRC, I think you have to give her her due. She was dead in the water in NH. Yes, I know the polls were wrong, and I know that she had been the leader in NH for months going in. But nobody foresaw Iowa happening like that, and even people in her own campaign were going public with “what happens if we lose NH” spin control stories in the day before the election. So I think it’s fair to say she was in real trouble there. But then she pretty much single-handedly pulled out New Hampshire. Whether those “tears” (really a voice catch) were genuine or fake, the result of a determination to not hold herself back any longer or a premeditated decision to be more like a “real” person, it worked. And until that moment in the NH debate when she got angry, I couldn’t identify any moment involving HRC that didn’t also involve Bill Clinton. As a political personality, she was just a non-entity to me, someone with clout and mastery of the details, but without the flair of her husband. But even Bill Clinton never pulled anything like HRC’s New Hampshire comeback off.

So I’m curious whether we’ll see the evolution of Obama the Uniter (along with a better idea of what he’ll be uniting us around), as well as the evolution of the “humanized” HRC. My vote probably hinges on whether I think HRC has connected with enough people to overcome enough of the entrenched opposition to her, and whether Obama’s ability to unite extends beyond his stage presence and a frozen weekday in Iowa.

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15 Responses to Primaries

  1. Nathan D says:

    And meanwhile they can tear each other apart, creating division and souring the what was shaping up to be an actual election of hope rather than choosing a lesser of two evils.

  2. Sean says:

    As one of the non-Democrats, I find it incredibly frustrating that the Democratic Party seems to have such a hard time figuring out that Obama is far and away the right candidate. He wins the general election hands-down and has a decent shot at just being a normal president, rather than continuing this cycle of “so-and-so is the WORST PRESIDENT EVER.” Hillary means at least four more years of hysteria, hyper-partisanship, etc., and would demonstrate that the Democrats are more interested in shoving someone in the Gore/Kerry mold down the electorate’s throat just because they can and because they want validation for the last two elections, rather than picking someone a greater part of the country could get behind.

    In sum: OBAMA, DAMMIT!

  3. kelly says:

    I have to agree with Sean, a HRC presidency would be ugly. I love the idea of the first woman in the office, and one who is as brilliant as Hillary in terms of raw IQ. But she’s a partisan player, and though no fault of her own, has a target on her back bigger than her former husband. I just don’t think she can pull off the presidency as effectively as Obama. Obama is truly a break from the pack, and watch how he can gracefully deflect the uglier nature of politics, and to your point pull partisans together.

    Also, does anyone else find Bill Clinton’s legacy annoying for Hillary. Granted, his legacy is the only one since JFK I can get excited about, but it seems to overshadow Hillary. And while that might be a political win as a result of the vote turn out, it obfuscates the message I want to hear from her.

    Oh and by the way, not that anyone really wants to talk about the MLK dustup from the weekend, but Hillary is a jackass when it comes to word choice sometimes. She needs to stop positioning herself as the victor and steward of democracy and start talking about her team.

    And while I am bashing her; Richard Holbrooke is her ace in the hole on Foreign policy and if anything screams 1990’s foreign policy (which I guess wasn’t that bad) its Holbrook.

  4. Charley says:

    Hopefully, Sean is indicating there will be a wave of “Obama Republicans” crossing over in November. I don’t think there will be *any* “HRC Republicans.”

    Come on, Doug. See the light. It’s Obama time!

  5. Paul says:

    I think I prefer HRC on policy, but Obama on personality. I think that Obama’s personality may reduce partisan squabbling, and HRC is such a polarizing figure that she’ll induce it. But, to take one example, I worry that Obama’s proposed tax increases (expiration of Bush tax cuts plus lifting the payroll tax cap plus cap gains adjustment) would do substantial harm to an already shaky economy. (Tho my economics background is hardly sufficient to take a definitive position on something like this, I guess I do believe that huge tax increases in the face of recessionary concerns is a no-no.) In contrast, HRC seems to be a baby step type of progressive, which makes me feel a lot more secure with her at the helm.

  6. David R says:

    I’m no economist either, but I think I would accept recession in the short run if it meant we could avoid a depression. If we don’t begin addressing our deficit, our credit as a country will downgraded and all those bonds will start becoming due.

    Ditto all the stuff about personalities. As much as I’ve hated the current administration throughout its run, I’m now convinced that ending our pervasive polarization is the only hope for getting this country back on track. I’m sure HRC would be fine on “policy”, but she is surely not the person to bring the Republicans to a consensus.

    Obama may not be either, but I think he’s the only candidate since Bill that has the possibility of bringing the world together again. It sounds corny, but I really feel that his being elected would send hope to many in the world that have given up on the USA (whereas HRC’s election would likely be positively received but still seem more like business as usual). Policy is of course important, but America needs to be likable again if we are going to really ‘win’ the war on terror.

  7. pipelineblog says:

    This is a part of the legacy of George W. Bush and the GOP slash and burn strategies that put him there. As a country, we just want to make the last 8 to 12 years go away. Obama may or may not be an inferior candidate, but what I’m hearing (and feeling myself) is that the specifics don’t matter so much as the perception that we can find somebody, anybody, to lead us away from our past.

    That’s a pretty sad statement on where we are right now. What’s even worse is that it actually makes sense.

  8. paul says:

    I hear you, but, for the same reasons, I also trust HRC to do better on addressing the deficit than Obama because addressing the deficit requires making hard decisions on fiscal discipline, reforming entitlements, etc. The idea, for example, that we secure social security solely by raising taxes seems to me to miss the forest for the trees. Taxes have to go up at some point, but we have so much to pay for in the years to come that tax increases can’t be viewed as the sole solution to any single problem. You also have to make pragmatic compromises across the board. In the case of soc sec, you may rely on tax increases to some degree, but you also have to reform the system to reduce obligations — means testing, raising the retirement age, changing the index, etc. I trust HRC’s instincts on all of this, despite not liking her very much.

  9. pipelineblog says:

    Although I also trust HRC’s policy instincts more (but probably know less about economics than anybody reading this), if there are truly difficult choices to be made they will require cooperation and buy-in, both from the House/Senate as well as the public. I can easily see another 4 to 8 years of GOP fixation on subverting Clinton initiatives, and that makes it hard for me to see her getting the kind of coalitions she’ll need, even if her policy ideas are appropriate.

    Here’s a thought for you: I’ve always wondered what it was about the Clintons, specifically, that inspired so much pure bile and obsession on the part of the GOP and their more rabid minions. And the thought has just occurred to me that ANY Dem president would get the same treatment. It’s just that Clinton was the first Dem president since the GOP really found their political and social stride.

    What if the partisan rancor the Clintons endured was/is really just a reflection on what the Lee Atwater/Karl Rove school is prepared to unleash against whichever non-GOPer happens to have power? But I’m sure they’d play nice with Obama…

  10. mrfares says:

    Hillary has been running since 1988 and I have yet to see the appeal. Personality is a large part of electoral politics and a large part of leadership and I don’t believe she has one large enough to cover that massive target she’s wearing. Barry may not be as deep on the bench but that’s going to be his strength in getting those swing voters who have been hearing the rights wing’s Hillary song for two decades. The mud slinging is not going to go well for either. It will crush the hope messages and probably just end up sending visceral voters back to the security of Rudy G911iani’s message.

  11. David says:

    First of all, Doug, remember that you live in MN, so your vote doesn’t really count. I am furious at the national party for determining that Michigan “broke the rules” for wanting a voice in the process of electing our next leader.

    I came out early for HRC, but I really like how Obama has handled himself. I’m not sure who I would like to see win, but it doesn’t really matter; (I don’t really have a say either), I just really like the way the race is shaking out. A couple of points: 1) Sean is not the first non-Democrat I have heard get excited by Obama. That’s promising… until he’s elected and has to govern. 2) The debate on the Democratic side has been extremely civil; with the Nevada debate turning into a lovefest when they all agreed to bury the hatchet. I love seeing that in such a tight race. 3) HRC kicks ass any time a substantive policy issue is raised. She really knows her stuff. 4) HRC is not really all that liberal. She just has that reputation, because she’s a vocal, intelligent, compassionate person. She has extremely high negatives and I’ve never really understood why. It seems to me she has all the characteristics you look for in a leader, except that she’s a she. I’m still waiting to hear a legitimate argument against her.

  12. pipelineblog says:

    In fact, I don’t even have vote at all. MN has an infernal caucus system, which sucks…caucus.

    Agreed on all your major points re: HRC, Dave, with some minor exceptions. I’m not sure that 100% of HRC’s likability problems come from her being a her, but it’s obviously a part of the issue. Some has to do with her last name.

    And, I do think there are legitimate arguments against her, including her Iraq vote. And I get why a far-left person would have enmity towards her, but name me a politician who didn’t die in a plane crash in northern MN that they haven’t felt that way about. Nobody’s as far left or as far right as the far left or far right want them to be. But by and large I don’t get where the hatred comes from unless I start making inferences about people’s uglier, perhaps even unconscious, motives. Understand, I’m not saying that people who don’t support HRC have bad motives; I’m talking about the visceral hatred of the right.

  13. kelly says:

    Obama’s sincerity scores big points; he may be just as smart, but he manages to make no one feel dumb or patronized. I second Scott’s 20 years of baggage theory in terms of her ability to actually be effective. Hillary also has a bit of Kerry’s starchiness from a long public life.

    I think that the root of the visceral hatred comes from the right not liking being patronized, more than it is about HRC being a woman. Nothing the right likes less than being told they are stupid in a slightly patronizing but incredibly articulate and smooth way. Bill has that by the bushels, and Hillary, from all biographical accounts helped shape him that way, he’s just a shitload smoother rhetorically.

    I do think there are some righties who have the whole fem bashing reaction, but for the most part those fools are marginalized this election around. Its that middle two thirds of the country that helps. Bill and Hillary are both cut from the same genius; but Bill came off as a smarty that can champion the people. Hillary comes off more as a ‘smarty pants’ who can’t ‘keep it real’. Which is why she got a bump in popularity when she let the facade crack in New Hampshire.

    Lastly, and I will chime in on Dave/Doug’s comments about Hillary and her policies. My beef with Hillary is she compromises on the truly controversial issues; which is easy to read as ‘effective’; but many of the far left are ready for someone to put a hurtin on the GOP in the same magnitude Bush f’d this country up. As Scott points out she’s be running forever; and the last time she took any big political risks was when she was first lady and Dem’s controlled both houses. Its only then she was willing to push truly progressive policies. And keep in mind Hillary didn’t just vote for the Iraq authorization, she helped stymie every democratic attempt to cajole the GOP into reality. All the funding votes, all the letters to president, everything. She’s only really come around in the last 10 months when polls indicate it was centrist to object to the war.

    I do largely agree with her on 95% of her policy stances……. which I guess means we have 3 solid candidates and it really is in the details. that shes so strong, and my personal second choice just goes to show how much better the field is this time around. (Not thrilled about her nuclear energy stance, cuba policies, gun control, smoking ban, and health care… but wow would be psyched if she were running the country the last 8 years)

  14. bs says:

    Why doesn’t anyone like Edwards? Doug says he can’t hold the mantle of change b/c he was on the ticket in ’04. Edwards is the only candidate that is in line with me on the domestic agenda at all. My three big issues are energy, taxes and health care. He’s pro bio-mass (just not corn); he’s taken no money from the oil/gas/natural gas industry; anti-nuclear power; for a carbon cap on emissions; for a moratorium on coal fired plants until we can recapture close to 100% of carbon emissions. On taxes, he wants tax cuts on the working class, with roll-back of Bush’s tax cuts on the top 2% of all earners. This is fiscally expansive b/c the propensity to spend for middle class earners is higher than high income earners; that answers Paul’s concern on income tax hikes during a recession. He is all the way to the left on single-payer health care. He’s taken no money from HMO’s, pharmeceutical companies, etc…

    Don’t fall for the hype. HRC and Obama are campaigning to win a primary election, they are not going to have an agenda to govern from if they win. They take money from insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and big oil.

  15. pipelineblog says:

    My main issue with Edwards is a perceptual one, not based on policy. I just don’t think the guy is genuine. I know that has to be maddening to a supporter because it can’t be quantified. Beyond that, I think Russ Feingold sums it up pretty well here:

    http://www.postcrescent.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080117/APC06/801170560/1036

    To quote: “The one that is the most problematic is (John) Edwards, who voted for the Patriot Act, campaigns against it. Voted for No Child Left Behind, campaigns against it. Voted for the China trade deal, campaigns against it. Voted for the Iraq war … He uses my voting record exactly as his platform, even though he had the opposite voting record.”

    I agree that Edwards does have smart policy positions, but none of that is proprietary. If HRC and Obama are compromised by their association with Big Pharma or Big Oil, that will be unfortunate, but Edwards’ voting record leaves me thinking he’s as compromised as the others, without the charisma or base of support of the other two. If he couldn’t win Iowa after all he put in there, I just don’t think it was meant to be.

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