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Vote for the More-Electable Hillary?: A Reply to Lanny Davis

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A recent post from Lanny Davis, sounding the alarm that Barack Obama is not as "electable" as Hillary Clinton in November, is clearly written more in sorrow than in anger. It purports to be a sad, respectful, but urgently realistic discussion of certain "facts" that suggest we should abandon Obama, before it's too late, and nominate Clinton. Of course it is all false: a desperate, meanspirited, dissembling medley of talking points; a shot thrown in the general direction of the basket, right at (or after) the buzzer, from all the way down the court; a smiley, last-chance farrago of spin. Davis cites some astonishingly overlooked polls and interprets them to show that a significant (fatal!) number of Democratic voters will not vote for Obama in the general election, because of his "inexperience." Sure. They'd vote for Clinton, if they could, but if she doesn't get the nomination they'll just have to vote for McCain. Because McCain has experience! There's glory for you! Who really wants change? Nobody! We're all just saying that. Experience is what we want, and the more the merrier. Military experience! First Lady experience! Impressive chronological accumulation! Let's be clear about this, my friends: if our next president doesn't have enough experience, al Qaeda will gobble us up. We're lucky Bush can't run again. Thank God Cheney didn't throw his hat in the ring. Experience!

Even if Davis's "facts" and his interpretation are true, there is a nagging little question about the course he advocates. Is it right? Is it just? Is it good? Am I, are so many of us, just silly "fairy tale" neophytes in the face of Davis' realpolitikal savvy? Right, just, good: how much do such lofty abstracts matter, especially if they risk jeopardizing our party's stately and otherwise unobstructed progress toward the public trough?

Davis argues that we should follow our heads, not our hearts, and vote for Clinton rather than Obama even if we feel (in those foolish hearts) that Obama would be the better president. (Many of us, in our delusional heads, also think that, for so many things that seem to us like reasons.) Davis advises us to vote for what appears to us to be the lesser candidate because, according to his novel calculations, she might be more electable in November. (Although who knows? Maybe she's not.)

How long, I wonder, should we put off doing what we think is right? Once upon a time wise men told us that segregation would just go away, in the fullness of time, when the time was right, without a lot of fuss, without making so many good white people mad. (That's what William Faulkner said, to his eternal shame.) Now, according to Davis, is not the right time for Obama. Later on, I assume, in the fullness of time, when it is "safe" enough not to jeopardize Democratic perks and power, when (according to our centrist leadership) the time is right, we can have an African-American president, if that's what we still want. When? I'm sure Mr. Davis will let us know. After all, he says, he "still" calls himself a "liberal activist," just like me and all the silly people who voted for Obama in the primaries.

For the sake of argument, let's follow his sweetly reasonable train of thought a little further. Maybe it would be a lot safer in the general election (I'm only being realistic, as Davis is) if we just bite the bullet again and nominate another white male. Why not? Just one more time. Aren't white males more electable than African-Americans or women? Come on: surely we don't have to spin any polls about this. Is this the time, really, to be foolishly idealistic and risk everything by nominating such feel-good long shots? Primary voters are good people, but what's wrong with them? Why in the world have they rejected all those better chances for us to win in November, all those so-much-more electable white males, and cast their votes (God love em') for Obama and Clinton? What do all the little people know about politics, compared to Lanny Davis? They just don't get it. They don't understand that we have to corral as many racist and misogynous votes in the center as we can to defeat the racist, misogynous party, and be the victors, and get the spoils?

Clearly, what we need, what the Democratic Party needs, are fewer silly amateur liberal activist voters and more sophisticated, professional, liberal activist superdelegates. Just for the record: is Mr. Davis a superdelegate?

I suspect that almost everyone who reads Davis's post, even the pleasant, seemingly-altruistic, author himself, will understand why we ought to print it out and wave it in the air and vent, as sincerely as we can, our vigorous indignation "Shame on you, Lanny Davis! Shame On You!"