Hillary Clinton, the Pennsylvania Primary & the Increasing Irrelevance of the Democratic Party

by Jeff Siegel

That sound you hear is John McCain's campaign operatives having a giggle. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), in winning Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary in Pennsylvania, did to Barack Obama what Sen. McCain (R-AZ) will do to the Democratic nominee in November.

Regular visitors to this space know how I feel about the Democrats, who have sold their birthright for campaign cash. Clinton's 10-point victory, and the Bushian strategy she used to get it, removes any doubts. We no longer have two parties in the U.S.; rather, we have conservative Republicans and moderate Republicans.

The difference between the two is mostly style, for each believes in the same things: The superiority of the American political, cultural and business elite; the primacy of the free market to benefit the American political, cultural and business elite; and a limited, extremely defined role for the federal government, so as not to upset the privileges of the American political, cultural and business elite. The Democratic Party, which once worked to help minorities and working men and women through the New Deal, the 1960s civil rights reforms, and a host of other measures, now sees this constituency as a group to be manipulated to retain its privileges.

Mrs. Clinton beat Sen. Obama (D-IL) by emphasizing her experience, her moderation, and her national security credentials. There is, ironically, some truth to her moderation, for she has continually moved her politics to the right. There has not been a Democratic presidential candidate since the Depression who would have acquiesced in the government-assisted bailout of the Bear Stearns investment bank, but Mrs. Clinton did.

Her national security credentials are minimal, but it didn't stop her from saying this: "I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” she said. “In the next ten years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them." This would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic.

Her husband, meanwhile, continues to demonstrate that he has no morals or scruples at all. The former president is Karl Rove to his wife's Bush. Most recently, Mr. Clinton questioned Obama's patriotism, but he has also made asides about Obama's fitness for office and the role of race in the campaign — all the while denying he said anything about any of that.

Obama is not blameless, either. He had an opportunity to redeem himself in Pennsylvania by capitalizing on his "bitter voters" remark. (And it's absolutely Orwellian that an elite like Mrs. Clinton, with her upper middle class suburban upbringing and her Seven Sisters education, would pounce on this and claim it showed that Obama wasn't a man of the people.)

Instead, he crawfished, much as he has done throughout the campaign when faced with a controversy. Of course, voters are bitter. They're losing their homes and their jobs and they can't afford to buy groceries or gas for their car. This was Obama's chance to prove he stood for something other than his idea of change, whatever that is. He should have said that he felt their pain, that he understood their bitterness. He should have said that the federal government has a role to play in fixing these problems, and that it must do more than bail out rich people. But he didn't, and so he got clobbered.

This victory doesn't necessarily move Clinton closer to the nomination. It just prolongs the campaign. But this probably doesn't matter. Yes, it's early, but regardless of the party's nominee, it's becoming clearer we will see a conservative Republican in the White House in November, which means the prolongation and expansion of the Iraq War and continuing economic calamity as the federal government is used to benefit the wealthy at the expense of working men and women.

If voters can vote for John McCain or a Democrat acting like John McCain, who do you think they'll vote for?

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:

(The photo of Sen. Hillary Clinton campaigning in Seattle, WA in February is by soggydan of Seattle via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)

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