Today from a politician, legal advocate, writer and orator of the Late Roman Republic, Marcus Tullius Cicero:
Do not hold the delusion that your advancement is accomplished by crushing others.
This year we have witnessed an astounding political tragedy. Astounding because no one would have believed it possible a year ago. We have watched while one candidate, once assumed to become the Democratic nominee, upon losing her position, has taken every opportunity to defame and demean her opponent, including a persistent appeal to racism. Done out of desperation, done out of ambition, it matters not the reason. It is the action that matters, and the actions of her campaign, including statements by her husband, her surrogates and her supporters have spread lies and half truths, and appealed to the basest instincts in our nature.
The entire purpose of her actions (and yes, I credit her with the actions of those who speak or act on her behalf), is to win her the chance, not the certainty, but only the chance, of convincing Democratic super-delegates, who hold the key to selecting the party’s nominee at this point, that her opponent has no hope of winning the general election, and thus they must turn to her as the only viable candidate who can win this November. To make this argument her campaign has at various times, implied that whites will not vote for Obama because he is an African American, or because he is an elitist, or because he is out of touch with ordinary Americans. She has implied his supporters are members of a cult, that his supporters are members of an activist fringe, and that their votes don’t count as much as those of her supporters. She has claimed that he is the only candidate in the field who lacks the experience and ability to command our Armed forces in a time of crisis, and that he only knows how to make pretty speeches. She has even taken shots at his religious faith. In short, she has portrayed him as a hollow man, a man without convictions, a man who cannot win the election because of who he is, because of his identity, and not because of his policy proposals or his political program.
She would have been wise to have heeded Cicero’s admonition, which I have cited above, for her actions in tearing down Obama have also helped to destroy her own good reputation among Democrats, who might have accepted her as their nominee had she run an honorable, positive campaign, rather than one focused on personal attacks and gutter politics. For she truly is deluded if she believes that she can recapture the votes of millions of Democrats who now see her as a woman bent on victory at all costs, regardless of whom she hurts or the means she employs to gain her ends. Much of the African American vote is lost to her, as their anger at her tactics in playing the race card with white voters can not be assuaged. She has also lost the votes of many party activists, many young people and I believe many independents to whom Obama’s message of change and hope was greatly appealing.
Clinton evoked extremely high negative poll numbers among the American electorate before she began this campaign. She needed to lower the level of ill will that many felt toward her. Instead she has only increased the multitude of Americans who despise her. In that sense she truly is a candidate who promotes diversity. Last year only conservatives and Republicans hated or disliked her. Now large numbers of Democrats do as well. Her own arrogance, her own lack of humility, her own failure to recognize the damage she was doing, and continues to do, to her party and to America by waging such a negative campaign against a popular, charismatic fellow Democrat, has been her downfall.
The resentments towards her among so many critical constituencies in her party will dog her for the rest of her political career. It is still possible, if unlikely, that she may yet achieve her goal of obtaining the nomination by destroying the candidacy of Obama. He, after all, for reasons that BooMan has remarked upon before, cannot use the same slash and burn tactics against her that she has willingly employed against him. He cannot appear to be the Angry Black Male lashing out at the poor white woman, for that is how our political pundits would portray such a response on his part. Whether by design, or because of his innate nature, he has not responded in kind to her myriad of ad hominem attacks.
He has not pointed out her ties to a secretive Washington based religious organization bent on advancing a conservative Christian agenda, known as “The Family,” even as she and her surrogates have lambasted him for his associations with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. He has not pointed out her strong connections to wealthy and powerful people and interests such as Walmart, on whose board she served, or conservative media mogul Richard Murdoch of FOX News fame, who has hosted political fund raisers for her. Obama has not made it a primary focus of his campaign to point out her close ties to variety of corporate lobbyists, or her work as a corporate lawyer for a politically connected law firm in Arkansas even after her husband was elected Governor of that state.
Perhaps most striking, however, is that as far as I can determine Obama has never attacked his opponent by suggesting or implying that Hillary Clinton is unelectable this Fall because of her gender. For any number of reasons, even if he wanted to attack her because she is a woman, he cannot. Thus, his focus has been primarily positive, focused on his own message, especially when compared to Senator Clinton’s campaign. Has he attacked her for her policy positions? Yes, he has, such as his recent ads which criticize her gas tax holiday proposal, but that is not equivalent to the types of personal attacks that have been leveled against him by the Clintons.
Obama either knows intuitively, or has learned from experience, that Cicero’s statement above is correct. A victory obtained through crushing the career of your political adversary is not a victory worth having. Too bad that Senator Clinton has not yet achieved such wisdom.