It's time to move on to the general election battle -- but we can't. It's not wrong for Hillary Clinton to keep running, but it is wrong to keep using reckless, irrational, and irresponsible arguments that delegitimize the future nominee and hurt the party's chances in November.
The "popular vote" argument is the most extreme example of Clinton campaign recklessness. The notion that Clinton has won the most "popular votes" is a meaningless metric from the start. Clinton people say Florida and Michigan Democrats shouldn't be "penalized" for the errors of others, yet their argument punishes voters who stayed home in those states believing their votes wouldn't count. And it "penalizes" Democrats in every single caucus state!
Yet Clinton defenders insist on claiming they're fighting for the "principle" of "counting every vote." Gen. Wesley Clark, who I respect (and would like to see nominated for VP), made this claim last night on Dan Abrams. But this so-called "principle" disenfranchises Democrats in Iowa, Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Nebraska, Washington, Maine, Hawaii, Wyoming ... and parts of Texas. Is that really a "value every Democrat should support," as Gen. Clark claimed?
And if we're really interested in that "popular vote" metric, here's a fact that should interest Democrats: More people have voted against Sen. Clinton than have voted against any primary candidate in American history. Take Michigan: Even though it was an "election" worthy of Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein, with no major opponent on the ballot (because the others honored an agreement she retroactively broke), 41% of voters chose nobody when given the opportunity to vote only for Sen. Clinton.
Here's what would have happened in Michigan if Hillary Clinton had not been the only leading candidate on the ballot : Based on exit polls taken at the time, she would have received 46% of the vote to 35% for Obama and 12% for John Edwards. That means that, with Edwards' endorsement, Obama would now be getting more Michigan delegates -- and more of its "popular votes" -- than Clinton. But because he honored the agreement and she didn't, she now wants a one-sided agreement that rewards her behavior.
Or take the Florida election: Clinton and her supporters want those votes counted because it will add numbers to this "popular vote" argument. But John Edwards got 251,562 votes in that invalidated primary. Shouldn't those votes be added to Obama's total now? That would bring Hillary's meaningless "popular vote" margin there down from 294,772 to 43,000. Throw in the votes from Dodd et al. and Hillary actually lost Florida's "popular vote" (she received 49% of the vote total).
See how meaningless this metric really is? Please, Clinton supporters: Stop using this damaged and destructive logic. I know that "counting every vote" sounds like a high-minded principle, but it's not. When the Clinton campaign dreamed it up, they knew it would mean defending a Stalin-like vote in Michigan and using M.C. Escher logic in Florida, but they guessed that these nuances would be lost on many supporters - and they have been. They knew it meant reversing a pledge that Sen. Clinton acknowledged on video (in defending the fact her name stayed on the ballot), but so what? Apparently "counting every vote" is a more compelling "principle" than "keeping your word."
Now Clinton supporters are planning to demonstrate en masse at the party meeting that will discuss the Florida and Michigan delegations on Saturday. As I discussed elsewhere, that's a "schismogenic" response to the perceived unwillingness of the Obama camp to yield - a perception that's being fueled by the "count every vote" pitch. That demonstration will look and feel like a civil rights march to Clinton supporters -- but to Obama supporters it will seem like thuggish refusal to accept a fair outcome. That will further split the party.
And we haven't even talked about sexism yet. Even a reasonable, thoughtful pro-Hillary piece like Hilary Rosen's can contain a sentence like this one: "(W)hen Hillary's supporters suggest that (gender bias is real), Obama supporters guffaw ..." I have never heard an Obama supporter "guffaw" at the notion of anti-Clinton sexism. Most of the Obama supporters I know have condemned it. But Clinton supporters who rightfully criticize the media for its sexism should also remember that the media spent a year anointing Clinton as the inevitable nominee, too. That means that press coverage was a mixed blessing for Hillary - and it also means those votes for other candidates really were a rejection of her as the nominee.
The Clintons are not likely to back down soon, and they have some rabidly partisan supporters who will carry their illogic as far (and as destructively) as imagination can take them. For an example, consider the historian who argues race hasn't been a factor in these primaries, even after 20% of Kentucky voters said it was in exit polls.
Irresponsible people like that aren't likely to change, so it's incumbent upon honorable Clinton supporters like Gen. Clark to do the right thing and step back from the Clintons' brinksmanship. Otherwise, some Clinton supporters will have been so manipulated and enraged by these false arguments that their support will be lost in November, no matter what agreement the two campaigns may reach in the next few weeks.
Many of us would love to stop having these negative intramural fights and start building a positive case for the general election. We'd like to step out of this darkness and into the light by congratulating Sen. Clinton for the 17 million votes she has earned, and by joining with her supporters in building toward a November victory. It's time to make peace and start healing, but that can't happen while good people keep using bad logic to make destructive arguments.
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