The race is not always to the swift


[Middle English, from Latin 'concessiō', 'concessiōn-', from 'concessus', past participle of 'concēdere', to concede]

The act of conceding or yielding, as a right, a privilege, or a point or fact in an argument.

That was some kinda speech.

Which brings me to something James Fallows suggested the other day. Namely, that there is a deep explanation for why Clinton remains willing to continue her hopeless campaign despite the fact that it appears to needlessly damage the Democratic nominee, and that explanation goes something like this:
The Clinton team doesn't worry about hurting Obama's prospects of winning in the fall, because they assess those prospects at zero. Always have. Obama might not win if he leads a bitterly divided party, but (in this view) he was never going to win. Not a chance. He would be smashed like an armadillo in the road* by the Republican campaign machine, and he would be just about as ready as the armadillo for what was coming.

When Clinton still had a plausible shot at the nomination, this assumption removed all guilt from beating up on Obama. As in: "I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience to bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002." By whittling Obama down, the Clintons were saving the party from a suicidal mistake.

And now that Hillary Clinton no longer has a plausible chance, she (and Harold Ickes etc) don't need to wake up in the middle of the night and worry: Oh no! Maybe we're paving the way for George Bush's third term! They are sure that Obama's nomination means exactly that, no matter what they do. So by definition they can't be making things worse. It is like sticking pins into a corpse -- you're not really hurting it any more. And if these efforts in fact make Obama's victory less likely -- well, then, reality will conform to their preexisting view.

Possibly, although that doesn't explain why so many of Clinton's supporters are sticking with her. I heard something on today's Diane Rehm show that was suggestive to me. A panelist, I missed his name, was reporting on conversations he had had with female Clinton supporters and he said something along the lines of, "He's a character they recognize from their own lives lives, the sort of flashy younger guy who steps in and takes over."

I'm not sure why[1], but I hadn't ever really put the experience critique through a feminist lens in the way the comment suggests, and having done so I have to admit that it resonates. The narrative isn't seamless -- to see Obama as a flashy interloper would seem to require granting that the nomination was something that Clinton had a prior claim to -- but the archetype being described is real enough, and there is no doubt that many, many women have been pushed aside in the way that the narrative suggests.

In any case, the question of the day seems to be, how can Obama wrap this thing up? So far, the idea seems to be to treat his nomination as accomplished fact. While this strategy is refreshing in its verisimilitude, it doesn't do much to bring Clinton's base to Obama's side. Clinton's idea, of course, is that her name should be on the ticket. What I'd like to see is some kind of summit between the two where they work out the Democratic legislative agenda for the 111th Congress. Maybe it turns out that they work well enough together that there's room for Clinton in the administration. If it doesn't, she's still a prominent Senator who played a key role in developing the Obama administration's agenda.

1 yeah, yeah, I've actually got a pretty good idea why.

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