Earth to Senator Clinton: Just Stop Already
By Cynthia Boaz
March 14, 2008 - 5:37pm ET
Senator Clinton, I am a white, female, middle-class, lifelong Democratic voter of a certain age. For the past four years, I have also been one of your constituents. Demographically, I should be your biggest supporter.
But I’m not. In fact, I am so horrified by your campaign tactics and reckless disregard for the bigger picture that I have resolved to cast my vote for someone else if you get the party’s nomination.
What makes this all the more surreal is that as a political scientist, I absolutely understand that by voting my conscience in our entrenched duopoly, I could well be contributing to a victory for the party whose interests least reflect my own. In other words, I am ready to sacrifice pragmatism for principle. So if for nothing else, allow me to thank you for the personal revelation that while at the end of the day, voting from integrity may not get me a “win,” at least I’ll be able to sleep at night (pun intended).
I’m curious, senator, have you noticed that in the past two months, a lot of people seemed to have defected to Senator Obama’s campaign from yours, but not the other way around? How do you explain that? I have some ideas, and here I offer the top ten reasons why I personally cannot support you:
10) You are in second place. In other words, you’re not winning. Neither the popular vote nor the pledged delegates. I know you claim to be a fighter, but mathematically, according to every vote calculator I’ve been able to find, it is close to impossible for you to acquire the nomination through the democratic process, unless you are willing to a) successfully push for a retroactive change in the rule that disqualified the seating of delegates from Florida and Michigan, which would, however you spin it, be an open violation of the rule of law (integral to the legitimacy of healthy democracies), and/or b) claim that “super” delegates are better qualified to ascertain the interests of the voters than the voters themselves (which is not only insulting and elitist, but, historically speaking, incorrect.) So, are you willing to subvert democracy rather than comply with an undesirable outcome? In my field, we call that “democracy by undemocratic means,” and it is a concept more closely associated with transitional democracies than consolidated ones.
9) You “went negative” and you played the terror card (and by proxy, the race card.) I’m not going to pretend to be affronted, because you are hardly the first or last candidate to use these means to achieve your ends. But the entire tactic is beneath who you claim to be, which is a candidate whose qualifications speak for themselves. If you truly are the more qualified candidate, you don’t need to exploit our fears and prejudices to get the message across. You should be above that, and we American citizens deserve more credit than that.
8) On the question of “experience,” I’m frankly not all that impressed. Your senatorial record in my part of New York state has been- to put it diplomatically- sub par. I live in a fairly economically depressed part of upstate whose great number of manufacturing plants gives it a close resemblance to much of the “rest belt” of Ohio and the steel towns of Pennsylvania. When you came to the Senate, you promised 200,000 (much needed) new jobs for upstate New York. Nearly eight years later, the net change is close to 30,000 fewer jobs than before. From the perspective of many upstate New Yorkers, you have abandoned us.
7) Your attempt to chalk up your time as First Lady as experience for the presidency…well, I guess I can understand that. After all, you did have a front row seat for some very important global events including the Rabin-Arafat handshake and the downfall of Milosevic. But you don’t know where to draw the line. For example, to imply that you helped to broker the Northern Ireland peace plan…Senator Clinton, please. Even the ever-gracious Lord Trimble called your claim “silly” and said that “being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player." As it turns out, the big meeting you cited as evidence turned out to be an honest-to-goodness tea party. I don’t even know how to comment on that. Seriously, a tea party.
6) Some of your rhetoric scares me, and not in the way you planned. For example, you referred to Hugo Chavez as a “dictator.” I can only assume that you are intelligent enough to know the definition of this term, and that this inaccuracy was intentional. Now, please know, I’m no Chavez fan. He has repressed his political opponents, intimidated journalists, and has shown a general disdain for the rule of law. But one thing he is not is a “dictator.” Chavez came to power in a democratic election and was even subject to two—two!—referenda on his rule, both of which he survived (albeit by a very narrow margin in 2007.) This may seem to be simply a semantic issue, but it’s not. By using a term like “dictator” to describe him, you are adopting the same dehumanizing rhetoric used by the current occupant of the White House, and setting yourself up to justify future aggression against Chavez. Like him, don’t like him, I don’t care. But don’t lie to us. The fact is that Hugo Chavez might be a bully, an authoritarian, or a belligerent nuisance, but a dictator he is not.
5) Where are the tax returns you keep promising? You say you need until April 15th, 2008. If I understand correctly, those returns were filed in 2006 and 2007 (weren’t they?), which means they should already be ready to go. The longer you delay, the worse things look for you. Start Xeroxing.
4) Here is an interesting campaign juxtaposition that sums up the difference between you and your competitor: on one hand, one of Senator Obama’s key staffers is co-founder of Wake-Up WalMart, a nonprofit dedicated to forcing WalMart to change its inhumane business practices, including substandard wages and lack of health care (all things you claim to be concerned about.) On the other hand, you personally served on WalMart’s board of directors for nearly a decade. Enough said.
3) If nothing else, self-respecting anti-war Democrats (and there are a lot of us) cannot in good conscience vote for you because of your support for the Iraq invasion, especially because of how you continue to defend that decision. Deflect all you want, blame President Bush or the intelligence agencies, but the fact is that a number of your Democratic colleagues had the courage and judgment to say “no” to that invasion, and you should have joined them. Trying to portray your and Senator Obama’s records on Iraq as identical since 2005 is also completely misleading. If you had not voted to support that invasion, his (and your) votes to fund the occupation would not have been necessary in the first place. Voting to invade and voting to fund are not moral equivalents- not by a long shot. What I don’t get is why you don’t admit you made a mistake and apologize for it already. We (anti-war Dems) would be much more receptive to that than to your utter unwillingness to accept responsibility. We forgave your husband for his transgressions, so what makes you think that we expect you to be infallible?
2) As I see it, the most significant difference between you and Senator Obama is not experience, but the kind of politics that you practice. You engage in a politics of what Buddhists, Hindus, and other mystics might call the "lower vibrating emotions"- i.e. you play on fear, anger, and self-interest. You tap into the sentiments that tempt us to regard other people negatively and competitively. This works in the short-term (as we saw in Ohio and Texas), but it tends to burn out quickly and leave demoralization in its place. In contrast, Senator Obama practices a politics of the "higher vibrating emotions"- i.e. empathy, compassion, and empowerment. I believe this is why so many people who were previously disengaged are drawn to him and to each other. Some may have a hard time articulating it beyond the word “hope”, but the fact is that Senator Obama—or better, what he represents-- accesses the better angels of our natures. That, Senator, is not just words. It doesn’t get more authentic than that.
1) What Senator Obama is doing transcends him. It is a movement. A president cannot change the way we think about our responsibility and role in the world, but a movement can. John Lewis knows this. Ted Kennedy knows this. Every democratically-minded citizen of India, Poland, South Africa, Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, Burma, Argentina, Belarus, and Tibet knows this. All of Europe knows it. Senator Clinton, you may find a way to acquire the nomination, but you can not commandeer a movement.
After all of this, you might be surprised to know I was a strong supporter of your husband and continue to believe that his presidency was amongst the greatest of the last century. No doubt you feel the same way. So I have to ask, is your desire for nomination at any cost really worth undermining that legacy and dragging all of us down with you in the process?
Cynthia Boaz is assistant professor of political science and international studies at the State University of New York at Brockport. She specializes in political development, nonviolent social movements, and quality of democracy. She resides in Rochester, NY.
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