Friday, May 9, 2008

Thanks, But I'll Define My Own Dreams

I wish political pundits would stop referring to Obama-Clinton as a "dream ticket" for Democrats (link 1, link 2, link 3). It is not.

The theory, as advanced by Hillary Clinton herself and others, is that Obama needs Clinton to broaden the Democratic ticket's appeal to the voters who have favored Clinton in the last several state-level primaries, namely, white people with less formal education, often called "working class" voters because according to the funhouse verbal norms of America, college-educated Americans who don't live on trust funds never call themselves "workers" even when they plainly are, let alone conceive of themselves as members of a "class" other than the exalted "middle" one.

Since when did Hillary Clinton become some kind of stalwart champion of these voters? I can think of a long list of Democrats who have built political careers on the basis of populism (economic, cultural, or both), but Hillary Clinton is not one of the first few dozen I'd think to put on the list, notwithstanding her brief, situational, and embarrassing panderings to them, e.g., the Crown Royal moment, the She-Spartacus posturing on the gas tax, the homespun tales of gun-shootin' and church-attendin' (complete with dropped g's).

The fallacy here is one I've mentioned before: the failure to appreciate that electoral choices involve a choice between particular candidates. That a voter would choose Clinton over Obama indicates that and only that; it does not signal any enduring attachment to Clinton. It says nothing about how the same voter would choose in a Clinton-McSame contest or a Clinton-[anybody else] contest.

Arriving at any such conclusion requires, minimally, some understanding of the reasons the voter chose Clinton over Obama, and even that may carry no predictive value. If, for example, the voter chose Clinton because of a personal aversion to Obama, absolutely nothing follows about Clinton's chances against any non-Obama candidate.

If polling and other research indicated that Hillary Clinton fared well in the campaign for the same reasons that Obama fared well, because people are drawn to her candidacy -- because they find her policies sensible and workable, because they find her personality appealing and endearing, because they admire the tone she sets and the grace with which she handles adversity, etc. -- it would count as a strong argument for the "dream team" premise.

To put it mildly, I don't see that same kind of appeal behind the success Clinton has had in the campaign, and as for degree, the raw numbers in popular votes and delegates answer that.

Obama-Clinton is no dream ticket. Obama can do better and I expect he will.

2 comments:

Jaxon said...

Billary is just being Billary. If she can't connive her way into the first chair, she will pad her chances by taking second chair, and then hoping...

Dale said...

Jaxon, like I've said: good riddance to her. She makes a good-enough Senator for New York as far as I know or care. We all hear the ticking down of the Hillary-for-Prez clock, and it's never been louder.