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Clinton fatigue

What is driving the widespread movement pressuring Hillary to drop out, even though she is very much still in the race?
By STEVEN STARK  |  April 2, 2008

This past week, Vermont senator Patrick Leahy joined a growing chorus of politicians, pundits, bloggers, and Barack Obama supporters urging Hillary Clinton — trailing by a little more than 100 delegates with a number of contests still to go — to quit the Democratic race in the interests of party unity.

It is, in truth, an argument virtually without precedent in modern political history, at least at this stage of such a close race. And while it does have its origins in an effort to preserve party unity, it also has its roots in an odd and vitriolic crusade to purge the Clintons and hand the nomination to a candidate who has yet, after all, to win a single large state’s primary (other than his own), let alone the nomination.

The fact is that, until now, candidates have rarely, if ever, faced such a concerted movement (featuring prominent names, such as Bill Richardson, and a column in Slate titled “The Hillary Deathwatch”), urging them to drop out before their rival has clinched the nomination. To review the history:

• In 1988, Jesse Jackson took his hopeless campaign against winner Michael Dukakis all the way to the convention, often to great media praise.

• In 1980, Ted Kennedy carried his run against Jimmy Carter all the way to the convention, even though it was clear he had been routed.

• In 1976, Ronald Reagan contested the “inevitability” of Gerald Ford all the way to the convention. Few, then or since, have ever thought to criticize Reagan’s failure to step aside and let Ford assume the mantle.

• Also in 1976, three candidates — Mo Udall, Jerry Brown, and Frank Church — ran against Jimmy Carter all the way through the final primaries, even though Carter seemed more than likely to be the eventual nominee.

• Even in 1960, Lyndon Johnson and Adlai Stevenson fought the “certain” nomination of John F. Kennedy all the way to the convention floor.

In fact, until this year, it’s been an axiom of American politics that candidates are allowed to pursue their runs until they decide to drop out — which is usually, by the way, when they run out of money. Even Mike Huckabee kept running against John McCain in this campaign long after it was obvious he had no hope of winning the GOP nod.

Yet in one of the tightest races in modern history — before the opponent has come close to clearly clinching the nomination, before a number of voters have been given the chance to have their voices heard, and when Clinton still has a chance, albeit a slim one, to win the prize, she is continually vilified for failing to see the light and bow out. What gives?

Shifting standards
Part of it is undoubtedly that there’s concern among Democrats that this protracted race is hurting the party’s prospects for the fall. But the truth is that if Clinton were to drop out tomorrow, Obama would still have the same liabilities he has today — they’d only emerge later.

Another part of it is driven by the fact that the superdelegates would much rather avoid their difficult choice between Obama and Clinton. Politicians generally like to compromise, and there’s no avoiding a very tough choice in this case. Unless, of course, Clinton drops out and takes them off the hook.

But a larger factor is that Clinton is being held to a different standard than virtually any other candidate in history. That’s being driven by Clinton fatigue, but it’s also being driven by a concerted campaign that examines every action the Clintons take and somehow finds the basest, most self-serving motivation for its existence. Thus, in this case, when Clinton is simply doing what everyone else has always done, she’s constantly attacked as an obsessed and crazed egomaniac, bent on self-aggrandizement at the expense of her party. Is there a fair amount of sexism in the way she’s being asked to get out of the way so a man can have the job? You be the judge.

Finally, there have been others who have observed how the Obama campaign resembles a religious movement (in both its positive and negative aspects). Thus, we have the growing messianism of Obama supporters — both on the Web and in the media — whose comments seem to convey the strong impression that it’s time for everyone to participate in the coronation of the chosen one.

If Obama really wants to vanquish Clinton, he has several other options that can end the contest long before the August convention. He could win Pennsylvania at the end of April. Or he could win a string of primaries after that, or successfully woo enough superdelegates to win the nomination. His problem isn’t that Clinton continues to run (after all, so did Huckabee); it’s that she continues to win, much to his chagrin.

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Clinton fatigue
You're wrong. Clinton is not being held to a higher standard. Democrats are angered by Clinton's support of Republican McCain over Obama, a Democrat (see sample quotes below). She betrayed her own party and it has cost her in the polls and with superdelegates. If people are wanting her out, it's because of these win-at-all-costs tactics, scorched-earth campaigning, AT THE EXPENSE OF HER OWN PARTY...and has absolutely nothing to do with her gender or being judged by a different standard. Supporting the opposite party's candidate has NEVER before been seen, and asking her to get out of the race is a natural reaction to such behavior. Quotes: "I think it's imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold...I believe that I've done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you'll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy." "I think you'll be able to imagine many things Senator McCain will be able to say. He's never been the president, but he will put forth his lifetime of experience. I will put forth my lifetime of experience. Senator Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002."
By marie in Tampa on 04/03/2008 at 12:43:24
Clinton fatigue
"Did the referee call a premature end to the Davidson-Wisconsin NCAA tournament hoops game this past week because it was clear Davidson was going to win and the team needed to rest its starters for the next contest?" This is the silliest analogy. Of course the ref didn't end the game. But, Wisconsin stopped fouling and prolonging the game. And, had Wisconsin had a vested interest in Davidson winning the next game, it might have started that strategy even sooner than it did. Please.
By useyourreason on 04/03/2008 at 10:18:44
Clinton fatigue
Steve, Obama hasn't run nearly the negative attacks that the Clintons have. I came into this race on the fence between Obama & Hillary but her air of entitlement and all the canned comments coming from the Clinton camp put me over the edge. I also like and trust Obama more despite his own issues. However I don't think it's anyone's business telling her when she should get out of the race. But in her desperation, it is becoming obvious to all that her attitude has become that she would rather see McCain win the presidency if she is not the Democratic nominee - it's despicable.
By sisyphus00 on 04/03/2008 at 11:46:09
Clinton fatigue
This is off the cuff, but I think Clinton simply likes being in the race and the thrill of a hard-fought challenge. More power to her on that point. She is envious of Obama's skill with words and gets dirty out of desperation--I can sympathize with that too. A more central belief of mine, however, is that Obama's race is more of a handicap than Clinton's sex. Obama is black and people don't trust blacks. That is a hurtle that makes them hit glass ceilings in workplaces, as I have noticed, all talk of intangible affirmative action notwithstanding. That said, Obama is playing the right card now, showing everyone they can trust him, that he is not going to chase Clinton out of the race like a nightstalker, but take the cool, calm high road that becomes so many blacks when faced with whites with deep-seated racial fear.
By gordon on 04/03/2008 at 3:59:20
Clinton fatigue
Also, Clinton's trying to weasel her way into the superdelegate market, which was not an issue in prior campaigns.
By gordon on 04/04/2008 at 12:42:46
Clinton fatigue
Thank you for writing this article. It is so very true that Hillary Clinton is held to a different standard. I have been saddened by the double standard so evident in the media today, and in the Dem party itself. Your article does great justice to revealing the double standard and I thank you. It is amazing that the candidate who has won all of the BIG BLUE states and the major SWING states is being push out. The red states won by Obama will be RED in November... Its Hillary for me, or if Hillary is not the nominee, then McCain. This country needs a patriotic leader with experience and Obama's anti-american, thin resume is just not good enough for the highest office in the land. God Bless America and God Bless Hillary Rodham Clinton.
By KitKat on 04/05/2008 at 10:38:03
Clinton fatigue
Change+experience=politics as usual.
By gordon on 04/08/2008 at 1:35:30
Clinton fatigue
is there any way people can stop doing to clinton what they did to yoko ono? they take a smart, funny, sweet, and strong woman, and turn her into 'mommy dearest'? whatever problem you-all have with a woman being in authority, i wish you'd get over it: it is unbecoming. i will vote for either democratic candidate this fall. and if the tables were exactly turned, if michelle obama had been president with a sex scandal, and barack had worked on health care, etc., in her administration and then become a senator with 7 years experience, and clinton had 3 years in the senate-- well, i would be for barack. period. i don't know why folks make this so personal. it only shows that they are not thinking clearly, so it really degrades and discounts the things they're saying-- much in the way that tim russert and chris matthews have each lost so much credibility by being so overtly biased, for instance. i want someone in the white house who isn't going to fall apart. i want them to get re-elected in '12. i DON'T want "outsider-unknown-saviour-after-an-evil-president" jimmy carter, and i have to say that it was great to elect deval patrick here in massachusetts, but that wore off the day after he took office. once it's a "politician" in the white house again, what will you-all (mostly former nader supporters) do with your disappointment? let me repeat, tho: i will happily vote for either candidate (it is disingenuous to say disappointed barack-democrats would let "strict-constructionist" mccain become president and pick the next supreme-court nominees, that's just silly and childish), and i do think barack could pull it out and make a great president-- i just think clinton is more prepared for any of the bizarre, unforseen things that will happen. peace!
By johnbillsbrother on 04/12/2008 at 1:50:01
Clinton fatigue
Fully support the notion that Barack and Hillary should stay in the race until one of them has 2024 pledged delegates. Superdelegates are between a rock and a hard place. They'd dearly love for Hillary to quit the race so they could curry favor with Barack for their making her do so. They'd also duck the tough Michigan and Florida delegation decisions. Not to mention the wrath from Bill Clinton. Bill Richardson, who endorsed Obama, was labeled a "Judas" by Clintonista James Carville who added "30 pieces of silver" in his betrayal remarks. Clinton himself was recently reported as purple with spluttering rage at the mere mention of Richardson's endorsement. Bill Clinton, since his playing the race card after the South Carolina primary, has become more a hindrance than a help to Hillary. The year is 2008, not 1992. She is the candidate, not he. More women and men would respect her ahd she gotten to be where she is more on her own mettle than relying on her husband. The prospect of "two-for-one" -- vote for one of 'em and get both of 'em -- had cachet in 1992 but not so in 2008. Do we really need another Monica scandal? A Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton presidential progression runs against the American grain. May be OK with the British Royal Family line of succession, but not around here.
By L-J on 04/15/2008 at 3:37:02
Clinton fatigue
REPLY to MARIE in TAMPA, 04/03/08 12:43 AM. A concern is with the Clintons being only for the Clintons. Bill Clinton, in 1988, somehow persuaded a co-Democratic Governor, Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, to be his nominator for that year's presidential nomination. From what one can gather, Bill sold Michael into being his nominator as the two did not know each other well. Bill took about an hour of prime time to introduce and ingratiate himself with the viewing public and -- by the bye -- to also nominate Dukakis. Bill, at the 1992 convention where he himself became the nominee, dissed the very nomination speech he made in 1988. Bill, in 2000, reportedly spent far more time and resources on behalf of Hillary's NY US Senate campaign than on Al Gore, his VP, running for president. Bill, in 2004, did not get aboard Sen. Kerry's campaign until October. One reason that the party faithful are not too thrilled with Hillary may be that the Cliontons are in it for themselves. Their tendency to override party loyalty for personal loyalty seems evident. Either Barack or Hillary will be the Democratic nominee. Could be that the loser in the Hillary-Barack horse race will emerge as 2012 front runner should McCain win in 2008. Will the loser (say, Hillary) actively support the winner (say, Barack)? If the nominee (say, Barack) wins in November, then the losing primary finalist (say, Hillary) is all but finished and forgotten as the person elected VP in 2008 becomes the heir apparent. No wonder they ain't a-gonna quit!
By L-J on 04/15/2008 at 11:52:45

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