Of all the analogies Hillary Clinton could have picked last week for her attempt to win the Democratic nomination, it turns out that she couldn't have picked a worse one than Eight Belles, the filly who ran her heart out in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, finished second behind the favorite, Big Brown, only to collapse moments after passing the winning post, and have to be euthanized on the spot. It was a horrible moment for horse racing in this country.
Hillary Clinton's insistence that she will stay in this race, no matter what, is, in itself, not a great moment for the Democratic Party either.
Hillary Clinton's game plan is to continue to sow seeds of doubt as to Barack Obama's electability in the fall. (The very catchy "buyer's remorse" approach). That's the pitch she is making to superdelegates, to whom she spoke directly during the ABC News debacle before the Pennsylvania primaries, and which she continues to make now. Along the way, as we all know, she is providing ample fodder to the Republican Spin Machine: The Commander-in-Chief issue, the he's not a Muslim "as far as I know" ridiculousness, the "plagiarism" attack and her delight in spinning out the "elite-can't-connect-with-lower-income-voters" line that the media loves to hash and rehash.
Along the way she is also managing to divide the Democratic Party. The longer this goes on, the harder it is going to be to find an Obama supporter who will vote for Clinton in the general ... and vice versa.
But, here's the thing that Hillary Clinton chooses to ignore and shouldn't. The superdelegates will break for Barack Obama. How could they not? The future of the Democratic Party is voting for the Junior Senator from the State of Illinois with the funny name. The past is voting for Hillary Clinton. Look at the numbers, the youth vote, the newly registered voters, many of whom are coming into or re-entering the Democratic Party, primarily because of Barack Obama. Look at his ability to out-raise her in this primary campaign, and the promise that holds for the general. And if you're looking for another tangible difference in the appeal these two candidates have, look at the support they are garnering from this country's cultural figures: the icons of America's present and future support Barack Obama -- think Will.i.am, John Legend, George Clooney; the icons of America's past support Hillary Clinton -- think Jack Nicholson, and Elton John. If Hillary Clinton manages to persuade the superdelegates that for some reason her baggage will not weigh as heavy as Barack Obama's baggage in the fall, there is no telling what kind of damage this will do to the future of the Democratic Party.
And so, while Hillary may run her heart out and finish a close second in this race, what will the cost be both to her, and to the Party. She and her husband's relationship with the African-American community has already been seriously damaged -- if not irreparably so (consider James Clyburn's comments about the Clintons), she's alienated herself from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, (consider her disparaging remarks about MoveOn.org), she's using the Karl Rove playbook to score political points against her Democratic opponent, (an anathema to any self-respecting Democrat), and all the while, she is letting John McCain make his case, and stake his claim to the White House. (Yesterday he was kicking back in Arizona watching the Diamondbacks get beaten by the NY Mets ... ).
So, watching the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, and seeing Eight Belles fight so gallantly to the finish, really and truly run her heart out, I didn't want her to win, only because the superstitious in me didn't want that analogy to translate into the polls on Tuesday. But I didn't want her to collapse and die either.
Horse racing lost a beautiful, talented filly on Saturday afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky, and opened itself up to a whole lot of (warranted) questions and criticism about just how much care is taken of those most beautiful of creatures.
The Democratic Party could well lose its stars -- and it's future, if Hillary stays in the race for too much longer.