Clinton Supporters and the Choice of Joe Biden

August 24, 2008

On the night when Barack Obama clinched the Democratic Presidential nomination, I wrote the following about Senator Hillary Clinton’s supporters, who were still hurt and sad and, yes, angry about the primary results:

I hope, though, that after dealing with their disappointment and taking time to get used to the idea of an Obama candidacy, they will take a close look at the policy positions of Barack Obama and John McCain.  I hope they will think about what a McCain Presidency would mean to the future of the war in Iraq, the composition of the Supreme Court, the state of the economy, the prospects for health care reform, the ballooning of our budget deficit, improvements in public education, and a host of other issues.  The differences between Obama and McCain are far greater than any differences that exist between Obama and Clinton, and when it comes right down to it, these and other issues are what this election ought to be about.

Here we are, two months later, on the eve of the opening of the Democratic National Convention, and, sadly, we are still hearing about disaffected Clinton supporters who are angry with Obama about this or that, and who are, remarkably, considering casting their votes for John McCain.  The latest slight, in the eyes of Clinton’s supporters, is Barack Obama’s choice of Delaware Senator Joe Biden as his running mate.

Personally, I would have liked for Obama to choose Hillary as his running mate.  Of course, I also would have liked to see Clinton release her delegates prior to the convention.  Things don’t always work out.  I have been pretty sympathetic to Clinton’s supporters in the wake of the primary season.  As I said the same night I wrote the quote given above, Clinton was treated shabbily by the press and forced to deal with a level of vitriol from the right, most of it rooted in sexism, that few modern Presidential candidates have ever had to endure.  But enough already.  Hillary Clinton lost the nomination to Obama.  She wasn’t cheated.  Obama did nothing wrong.  He simply outworked her and outsmarted her.  He ran a brilliant campaign that focused on grassroots organization.  That’s why he creamed her in all the caucus states.  Now Clinton’s supporters might not like the caucus system — I’m not sure I do either — but she signed off on those rules when she was still the frontrunner.  She also signed off on the punishments meted out by the DNC against Florida and Michigan.  Only when the campaign started to get away from her did she start to complain about the caucuses and rail against the “injustice” done to the voters in the two states facing party sanctions.  Obama did nothing wrong, but Clinton went out of her way to paint him as a cheat in order to keep her voters riled up.

As for the VP decision:  When Hillary Clinton finally conceded the race to Obama, she made a point of NOT ending her campaign.  Instead, she suspended it.  I’m sure she had good reason for this — it might have had something to do with campaign finances and the debt her campaign had incurred.  When discussions began on how the convention would be run, Clinton insisted on having her name placed in nomination.  She said it would give her supporters a chance to have some closure — a catharsis of sorts.  Obama agreed.  Clinton will also have floor whips in place at the convention:  campaign lieutenants who will make certain that the Clinton delegates behave and vote as they are supposed to.  Clinton’s campaign representatives have said that they want to avoid anti-Obama demonstrations, and that this is why they want the whips in place.

All of this is easy to explain away.  It can all be seen as innocent.  But the fact remains that Hillary Clinton has done everything she could to maintain her viability as an alternative to Barack Obama.  I can’t blame her really.  The margin between them was thin, and he is a relative newcomer to the political scene.  He might have made a mistake even after clinching the nomination, and she probably wanted to be in position to capitalize when he did.

My point is this:  Hillary Clinton and her supporters can’t have it both ways.  If Clinton’s campaign is merely suspended, if her name is to be placed in nomination at the campaign, if she is going to have a full compliment of delegate whips on the floor at the convention, then she remains, in fact, a rival to Obama for the Presidency.  She can’t also expect to be considered for the Vice Presidency on a ticket headed by Obama.  It would be presumptuous of him to ask her, because he’d be dismissing her candidacy.  And it is presumptuous of her and her supporters to believe that she can actively pursue both offices.

The bottom line remains the same as it did the night Barack Obama clinched the nomination.  Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both progressive Democrats who support an end to the war in Iraq, a tax system that doesn’t benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor, enlightened environmental and energy policies, a Supreme Court that will protect a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, meaningful reform of our nation’s health care system, and a qhole host of other policy initiatives.  Clinton supporters who vote for McCain simply because they are angry that Hillary lost the nomination are turning their backs on everything Clinton has fought for throughout her political career.  As she said any number of times, this election was not about her, but rather about the future of our nation and the well-being of our children and their children.  Clinton has swallowed her disappointment and spoken eloquently on Barack Obama’s behalf.  It’s time for her supporters to let go of their disappointment and follow her lead.  This election is too important for this nonsense to continue.

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2 Responses to “Clinton Supporters and the Choice of Joe Biden”

  1. Brian said

    I would like to see a unified Democratic party, but Clintons refusal to admit defeat and end her campaign seems suspicious to me. I cant put my finger on her motivations for doing that. Maybe its the debt she incurred, maybe it was just wishful thinking that Obama would slip up somewhere, or maybe it was her trying to force her way into the VP spot. Either way its doing no good for the Dems. Despite her speeches in support of Obama she has doen everything she could to hold him back. It seems like lip service to me.

  2. davidbcoe said

    I have to agree. And I wonder if she really is looking to 2012 already. Thanks for the comment.

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