Clinton's Shocking Florida Gambit

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THE PLANK MAY 21, 2008

Clinton's Shocking Florida Gambit

Hillary Clinton's rhetoric today about counting the results in Florida and Michigan is simply incredible. Her speech compares discounting the Florida and Michigan primaries to vote suppression and slavery:

She said "there's a reason why so many have fought so hard and sacrificed so much. It's because they knew that to be a citizen of this country is to have the right and responsibility to help shape its future. Not just to have your voice heard but to have it count. People have fought hard because they knew their vote was at stake and so was their children's futures.

 

Those people, she said “refused to accept their assigned place as second-class citizens. Men and women who saw America not as it was, but as it could and should be, and committed themselves to extending the frontiers of our democracy. The abolitionists and all who fought to end slavery and ensure freedom came with the full right of citizenship. The tenacious women and a few brave men who gathered at the Seneca Falls convention back in 1848 to demand the right to vote.”

It's worth repeating: They supported this "disenfranchisement." Here's a New York Times story from last fall, headlined, "Clinton, Obama and Edwards Join Pledge to Avoid Defiant States."

Moreover, it's obviously true that Obama not campaigning, organizing, or advertizing in those states hurt him, and helped the more familiar candidate in Clinton. She decided to campaign to change the rules only after it became her interest to do so.

This gambit by Clinton is simply an attempt to steal the nomination. It's obviously not going to work, because Democratic superdelegates don't want to commit suicide. But this episode is very revealing about Clinton's character. I try not to make moralistic characterological judgments about politicians, because all politicians compromise their ideals in the pursuit of power. There are no angels in this business. Clinton's gambit, however, truly is breathtaking.

If she's consciously lying, it's a shockingly cynical move. I don't think she's lying. I think she's so convinced of her own morality and historical importance that she can whip herself into a moralistic fervor to support nearly any position that might benefit her, however crass and sleazy. It's not just that she's convinced herself it's okay to try to steal the nomination, she has also appropriated the most sacred legacies of liberalism for her effort to do so. She is proving herself temperamentally unfit for the presidency.

--Jonathan Chait

 

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