On she goes. On she goes.
Give her “space.”
Give her “time.”
Give her “a way to climb down.”
That’s all very nice, but it’s also looking more and more like a fool’s errand. And playing the fool: the Democratic Party.
The problem in a nutshell? They’re trying to offer “a graceful exit” to someone who has absolutely no intention of leaving.
Call it the Hillary Hostage Crisis.
In an election year that should be tailor-made for the Dems—with George Bush reaching new highs in lows, and the Republican brand as toxic as lead paint—Hillary Clinton’s got the donkey tied up in the basement.
She won’t surrender, and she won’t let the donkey get on to more pressing business—a general election campaign against the GOP elephant and John McCain.
“Don’t push her,” people keep saying. “Let it play out. There are only a few more weeks, a few more contests, and then it’ll be over.”
Not exactly. There are only a few more weeks and a few more contests before the voting will be over. Just the voting, though—not the fighting. And nothing that Hillary Clinton has said in recent days suggests that the fighting will end when the voting does.
June 4, she’s saying now. “We’ll know a lot more” on June 4. But will anything we’ll know on June 4 make her decide to go on June 4? I don’t hear it. Just the opposite.
Numbers be damned, facts be damned—she’s still in it to win it.
The results from Florida and Michigan have to be counted, she insists. The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee will be meeting May 31, she says, to decide what to do about Florida and Michigan. We’ll know more after they meet.
And if they don’t see it Hillary’s way? If they don’t give her enough in Florida and Michigan to overcome the popular-vote gap, let alone the delegate gap, with Barack Obama once the voting is finished? Then is it over?
Well, no—she doesn’t say that. She’s never ruled out appealing the DNC’s decision to the party’s Credentials Committee, or even taking her case all the way to the convention floor in Denver.
But that’s not the worst of it. Because nothing in the argument she’s making for her candidacy has a “June 4” pull date stamped on it either. Every claim she’s making— that she can build a broader coalition, that she can win crucial swing states, that she can stand up to Republican attacks, so let’s ignore the delegate totals—can just as logically be made in July, or in August.
Meanwhile, she and her people have made clear their opinion that superdelegates—and pledged delegates, too, for that matter—are free to change their minds any time they want to.
Which is to say that “I’m staying in this race until there’s a nominee” doesn’t necessarily mean what many Democrats so desperately want it to mean—that as soon as one of the candidates (Obama, presumably) has gathered a majority, he’s the nominee, and she’ll get out of his way.
Nope. As long as any delegate can switch at any time, there’s no “nominee” until the moment the gavel comes down to declare a roll-call winner in Denver. Let the poaching begin!
Here’s the key sentence, from her victory speech in West Virginia on Tuesday night. She was talking directly to the party leaders who stand between her and a return to the White House.
“I can win this nomination,” Hillary Clinton declared, “if you decide I should.”
If they decide she should.
She isn’t looking for a “graceful exit.” She’s looking for a coronation.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.