Yes, There Really Are Some Crazy Clintonites Left

by Jonathan Chait | July 9, 2008

Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, is going into business with Karen Hughes. Ezra Klein laments,

The political professionals clustered around the Clintons have acted like self-interested operatives, not altruistic loyalists. Their presence has hurt Clinton, their conflicts of interest have hurt Clinton, and their professional decisions and public statements have emphasized all of her political weaknesses and all of the base's fears about her campaign. Frankly, she deserved better.

Look, Hillary Clinton is responsible for her own advisors. She's not a victim. She knew exactly who she was surrounding herself with, and should be judged accordingly.

This is kind of a small point, but I'm making it because there's a growing tendency of Obama supporters to patronize Clinton and her remaining loyalists. I can see why it's in the interest of the Obama campaign to treat Clinton and her fans with kid gloves, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to play along.

A few weeks ago, Frank Rich poo-poohed the anger of Clinton supporters toward Obama:

the notion that all female Clinton supporters became “angry white women” once their candidate lost — to the hysterical extreme where even lifelong Democrats would desert their own party en masse — is itself a sexist stereotype. That’s why some of the same talking heads and Republican operatives who gleefully insulted Mrs. Clinton are now peddling this fable on such flimsy anecdotal evidence.

The fictional scenario of mobs of crazed women defecting to Mr. McCain is just one subplot of the master narrative that has consumed our politics for months.

And not long ago, feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte questioned the existence of the "Puma," which stands for "Party Unity My Ass," a movement of Clinton supporters who refuse to back Obama:

I’ve been suspicious from the beginning about the existence of ”PUMAs": Female Clinton supporters who are so bitter about her loss that they will throw equal pay, reproductive rights, the environment, and a chance at peace under the bus to get their revenge by voting for McCain. ...

If you can convince people that there are PUMAs, then you accomplish two giant goals for the McCain campaign:

1) Creating the illusion that McCain is moderate enough to attract the votes of feminist Clinton supporters and
2) Reinforcing the narrative about how feminists are just hysterical bitches with no common sense who subsist on outrage, can’t act in their own self-interest because of their feminine-addled brains, and can safely be ignored. 

Marcote proceeded to report that Darragh Murphy, the founder of the "Puma Pac," is a former McCain donor who had never donated to Hillary Clinton. A-ha -- more evidence that the crazy Clinton-loving Obama-haters is a GOP ploy! Alas, it turned out that Murphy had indeed donated to Clinton, and her 2000 contribution to McCain was designed to hurt George W. Bush. So yes, there really are plenty of crazy Clintonites out there. It's not sexist to say that -- men act irrationally, too.

Nor is it a totally marginal phenomenon. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal reported:

And while 115 individuals who had donated at least $1,000 to Sen. Clinton made their first donations to Sen. Obama, another 115 former Clinton backers made their first big donations to Sen. McCain.

I can see the attractiveness of the party line that Democrats are all united, and only Republicans and sexists want to suggest otherwise. I can also see the utility of trying to remember all that was good about Hillary Clinton, and paying homage to the sexism she endured, so that her supporters don't feel do disrespected. The fact remains, however, that Clinton surrounded herself with some unattractive characters and, not coincidentally, ran a nasty, demagogic, anti-intellectual campaign, and did some non-trivial damage to the causes she claimed to be fighting for. Pointing this out now doesn't help Obama, but I'm not working for his campaign.

--Jonathan Chait

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/yes-there-really-are-some-crazy-clintonites-left