Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why is she still in?

It is essentially impossible for Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee for president.

She is losing in every measure of success: pledged delegates, superdelegates, states won, and the overall popular vote. Her victory last night in West Virgina was considerable (something like 67% to 26%), but doesn't change any of those measures.

Moreover, the victory is also tainted racism and religious bigotry. Exit polls reflect that one in four Clinton voters reported that race was an important factor in the vote. Stories coming out of West Virginia just before the election told stories of voters who planned to vote for Clinton because they "heard that Obama is a Muslim and his wife’s an atheist," or because they "want someone who is a full-blooded American." It's interesting that these voters didn't say they were voting for Clinton because of something they like about her, but because of the things they didn't like about Obama. But nonetheless, Clinton has been all to willing to ride that wave of prejudice, sending Bill to tell white audiences in West Virginia that she represents "people like you."

But not only does the West Virgina win not erase Obama's lead in every measure of success, it has also failed to even slow Obama's increasing lead in superdelegates---he picked up two more this morning.

There are only two ways it might happen: 1) The old angry white people of West Virginia somehow possess the voters in all the remaining primaries and give Clinton similar margins of victory, while simultaneously, there is a mass exodus of superdelegates from Obama to Clinton. 2) Clinton and a mass army of political lackeys somehow succeed in pressuring the delegates at the convention to ignore who they are pledged to vote for while simultaneously, Obama either disappears completely or has a massive breakdown and spends the rest of the campaign rocking in a fetal position. Basically, it's not going to happen.

And yet she keeps going, like a demented energizer bunny in a pantsuit. Like the little engine that (thought she) could she keeps chugging through coal country. And why? With Obama's increasing leads, it isn't bettering her chances; and it's also working evil on her family's image and reputation. Whereas Bill was once a celebrity among African-American Democrats, Clinton's race-baiting tactics in West Virginia has Chris Matthews calling her "the Al Sharpton of white people." And with apologies to the good Reverend, that isn't an honor.

So, again, why?

I can think of four possible reasons:

1) She wants to lock in the spot as VP. While Obama is usually cordial with Clinton in public, some have speculated that the rancor between their campaigns on the trail has foreclosed any possibility of a Clinton-Obama ticket. Others cite Michelle Obama's personal dislike for the pantsuited former first lady and argue that Michelle would veto Clinton as a running mate. Knowing that the odds are against her being VP, Clinton may be trying to force Obama's hand by trying proving that without her on the ticket, Obama can't win with old white Democrats.

2) She wants to massage her ego with a big win in West Virginia before she gets out for good. Maybe Clinton does realize that she won't win, but since she was so highly favored in West Virginia, she knew that it would give her the chance to go out in a blaze of glory rather than in the calumny of a streak of losses followed by a close Pennsylvania win and a marginal victory in Indiana.

3) She wants to keep fundraising. Clinton's campaign is running at least a 20 million dollar debt right now and she has had to led almost 12 million out of her own pocket just to keep it afloat. With a win in coal country, maybe she give some hope to old angry white people who want to see her win. That way she could convince more retirees to send in donations and make up some of the cash rather than eat the deficit herself. Getting on the ticket as VP would also solve this problem.

4) She wants McCain to win. If Obama wins, he'll be the presumptive nominee again the next time around and Clinton would have to wait eight years to try again. If McCain wins, Clinton will be able to turn around, thumb her nose at the rest of the party and say "I told you Obama wasn't electable! Next time you better listen to me!" Also, McCain is old. See, e.g., here. In four years, he'll be even older. If he wins, there is a decent chance that he might not run again. Even if he does run again, he'll be easier to pick off than a younger incumbent Obama. At 61, Clinton's no spring chicken herself, and a 69 or 70 year old Hillary Clinton would have a harder row to hoe than a 65 year old Hillary Clinton.

So what do you think? Which explanation is more plausible? What other explanations have I overlooked?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Race in the Race

In case you don't know, here's an oversimplified wrap-up of the recent goings on in the democratic primary.

Last week, Clinton joined John McCain in calling for a summer gas tax holiday, only she put a twist on it by proposing that oil companies pay the tax rather than just getting rid of it. Obama's counter was that it's a gimmick, not a solution. Then earlier this week, Obama won North Carolina by about 14 percent, and lost Indiana by about two. North Carolina was a bigger win, not only because of the margin of victory, but also because there were more delegates.

In the aftermath, the talking heads on cable declared Obama the nominee. Their reasoning: at this point, Clinton would have to win every remaining race 65% to 35% in order for the math to add up for her. She hasn't won a single race by that margin so far. In protest, Clinton flew in a huff to West Virginia to campaign. In an effort to stem the growing chorus of commentators who say she can't win and should concede, she has begun trying to make the argument that Obama's support is defective because it is too black.

The argument goes like this: you have to have white people to win the election, and white people like me more than they like Obama. A less charitable reading is that she is simply playing off of the racial prejudice of older white voters and concealing it with some nonsense about electability. But whatever her intentions, she sure is being explicit about the racial lines she's drawing. After boasting of her white support in several states, she comes right out and says "there's a pattern emerging here." Paul Begala, a one-time advisor to Bill Clinton and current Clinton supporter put it more bluntly, saying that the democracts can't win with just "eggheads and African-Americans."

Ironic that this comes from the woman whose husband once had almost rock-star status among African Americans, and who was once dubbed the nation's first black President by Toni Morrison. And conveniently, Ms. Morrison has recently explained what she really meant when she called Bill the first black President: not that he was culturally black, but that the nation was treating him as the cops treat a black man on the street: guilty from the start. And, by the way, she supports Obama.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Rock-a-bye Baby

So it turns out that I don't know very many lullabyes.

Really the only one I know is the one about the baby in the tree-top, which, by the way, if you pay attention to the words, is a little disturbing and kind of Steven King-esque. "When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby. . ." I have to wonder, is that supposed to be a threat? Are you telling the kid that she better shut up and hold still or else she might rock the cradle to much? Or is it just a comment on the inevitability of death? After all, it's not the baby that makes the cradle rock, it's just something that happens "when the wind blows." That's so ominous and kind of creepy. And this is how we put our kids to bed? And what's the kid doing in the top of a tree in the first place?

Anyway, the unsatisfying philosophy of the song about the baby in the treetop combines with sheer boredom and makes me want to seek out new ones. Since I don't really know many, I've had to improvise and use other songs I know, which has been interesting.

It turns out the Beatles wrote some good lullabyes. The one that seems to work the best is "Mother Nature's Son." "Here comes the Sun" is pretty good too, but it seems weird too sing it at night. "Rocky Racoon" isn't too bad, but it's easy to get into it and sing it too loud. Even more surprising is that Weezer's "My name is Jonas" gets the baby to quite down pretty really well. I once tried "Only in Dreams" but there's too many guitar parts that don't translate to well into a vocal solo.

There are a few They Might be Giants tunes that work well, also (you knew it was coming). She really seems to like "Mink Car." "Another First Kiss" isn't too bad either. Of course, TMBG has also written a few songs intended as lullabyes on their children's album, "No!". "Sleepwalkers" and "Lazyhead and Sleepybones" are good ones, but "Bed Bed Bed" doesn't work so well. Again, too many instrumentals, and too raucous.

When it comes to church music, "I am a child of God" is of course an old standby. But my favorite is "Adam-ondi-Ahman." "O Savior, thou who wearest a crown" is another really good one.