The Monkey Trap, and Hillary Clinton’s
Blind Rush to Defeat
Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers.
March 18, 2008
African tribes have devised an ingenious method of capturing monkeys.
They cut a small hole in a coconut, large enough for a monkey’s hand but
too small for a monkey’s fist. They then put a few peanuts inside the
coconut. When the monkey reaches inside and grabs the peanuts, it is
unable to extract its hand.
The monkey is then faced with two choices: let go of the bait and go
free or hold on to the bait and be captured. Escaping with the bait is
not an option. African monkeys, determined and single-minded critters
that they are, usually hold-on until captured.
Hillary Clinton, it seems, is consumed with a monkey-like determination
to become the 44th President of the United States, and with that
consuming objective in mind, she fails to perceive the context and the
likely consequences of her behavior. She has essentially two options:
hang on to her determination to win the nomination by any and all means
necessary, which, as I will explain below, will almost certainly result
in the election of John McCain, or let go of her personal ambition and
join a united effort to elect a Democratic President in November.
Winning both the nomination and the general election is apparently out
of the question.
Most objective observers of the campaign agree that Barack Obama has a
near-mathematical lock on the nomination, provided the contest continues
according to the party's rules. In compliance with a signed agreement by
both candidates, the unauthorized and uncontested Michigan and Florida
primaries are out of play. Any likely compromise resolution of the
Michigan and Florida controversies will be of negligible advantage to
either side. Obama’s 150 pledged delegate lead can only be overcome by
unobtainable two to one Clinton majorities in all the remaining
primaries followed by the support of a majority of the super delegates.
Clinton can play fair, or she can play dirty. If she plays fair by
following the rules and refraining from smear tactics, she will surely
lose the nomination. Given Barack Obama’s unassailable lead among the
pledged delegates, it is clear that the super-delegates will not
overturn the people’s will as expressed in the primaries and the
caucuses. Nancy Pelosi, who leads more than two-hundred super-delegates, has
recently announced as much.
So if Clinton is to be nominated, she must overturn rules that she has
agreed to, persuade most of the super-delegates to ignore the will of
the voters and caucus participants, and to accomplish all this she must
diminish Obama’s stature through negative campaigning. Because such
tactics also devastate the public opinion of her (not very high to begin
with), those same tactics employed to gain the nomination will almost
certainly deprive her of the presidency in the general election.
In sum, this is Hillary's dilemma: Hold on to the bait, and both Clinton
and the Democrats lose. Let go of the bait, and Obama wins. Hillary
Clinton’s victory in November is not an option.
Clinton began her campaign with the pollsters projecting that about half
of the voting population would not vote for her under any circumstances.
So to win the presidency, she must somehow reverse a widespread negative
public perception of her. And what is this perception? Among other
things, that she is shrill, self-serving, unprincipled, manipulative,
and untrustworthy. And yet to win the nomination, how must she behave,
and thus appear to the public, if she is to overcome Obama’s commanding
advantage? She must be, as she now appears to be, shrill, self-serving,
unprincipled, manipulative and untrustworthy. In short, in order to win
the nomination, she must behave in a manner that will validate a public
opinion of her that will surely deprive her of victory in the general
And even if her negative campaign against Obama, both overt and covert,
fails to capture the nomination, it might well sufficiently damage
Obama’s stature to deprive him, along with numerous Democratic
Congressional candidates, of success in November. Hence Obama's
guilt by association with Pastor Jeremiah White, and her favoring of
McCain's "experience" over Obama's "speech-making." Justly or not,
there is a suspicion spreading among rank-and-file Democrats that
Hillary’s attitude is “it must be me, or nobody!” Meanwhile, as
this bitter rivalry continues we can see a fracturing of the party:
Support Clinton? “You’re a racist.” Support Obama? “You’re a sexist.”
It’s nonsense, of course. Most of Clinton's supporters are not racists,
and most Obamaphiles have no objection to a woman president; just not
that woman. It's all nonsense, but mischievously divisive nonetheless.
Then there is the issue of “playing by the rules.” Early in the
campaign, Clinton, along with the other candidates, signed a statement
agreeing not to recognize the delegates of, or to campaign in, the
rule-defying states of Michigan and Florida. Now that she desperately
needs these votes, she is ignoring her agreement and is demanding as her
own the delegates in Michigan, where she was the only candidate on the
ballot, and in Florida where Obama, by agreement, did not appear. Having
lost in the Texas delegate count, she is attempting to overturn this
result in the courts, perchance to be eventually bailed out by the
Supreme Court, as was George Bush.
Not content to defy these party rules, she now proposes her own rules.
For example, because the “caucus delegates,” have been chosen by an
allegedly “less democratic process,” they should not be regarded as
equal to “primary delegates.” It just happens that Obama has been more
successful in caucuses than in primaries. And now we are told by the
Clinton campaign that the Pennsylvania primary should be treated as
decisive. Fortunately, not many Democrats seem to be buying that one.
After seven years of Bush/Cheney violations of treaties and
international law, of trashing the Constitution, of defying
Congressional subpoenas, and of nullifying acts of Congress with signing
statements, it is not likely that the American public will have much
stomach for another President that regards herself as unbound by rules
or, by implication, by laws.
The Democratic Party is caught in the grips of a tragedy, in the
classical sense, described by Alfred North Whitehead as “the solemnity
of the remorseless working of things” which rational agents can see at
work but are helpless to intervene and avert. Historical examples
include the drift of the European powers into the First World War, the
uncontrolled growth of world population, and the onset of catastrophic
climate change. Now a prospective candidate of one of the major parties,
consumed by personal ambition, is set upon a course that might well
cripple the party and destroy its otherwise excellent prospects of
success in the presidential election.
Or possibly not. But in order to put the brakes on this potential
train-wreck, the Democratic party elders, which is to say the
super-delegates, must take the initiative and intervene. And sadly, the
Congressional members among the Democratic super-delegates have not
distinguished themselves through their initiatives and interventions
against the Bush/Cheney crime syndicate.
What the supers might do, however much I despair of hope that they will,
is announce to both candidates: “Either this orgy of party
self-immolation and this violation of party rules ends now, or else we
will end it forthwith.” They can do so if a sufficient number of the
super-delegates endorse the innocent candidate to put that candidate’s
total “over the top.”
Failing that, or perchance in addition, the rank and file Democratic
voters must voice their displeasure, loud and clear, at the behavior of
Hillary Clinton and her campaign.
Only then might Hillary Clinton loose her grip on the prize that she has
already lost and cannot regain: The Presidency of the United States.
Copyright 2008 by Ernest Partridge
Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications
Conscience of a Progressive:
Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field
of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at
the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He
publishes the website, "The Online
Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website,
"The Crisis Papers".
His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org .