Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sic transit gloria Clintoni


So I was sitting on the bed in a hotel room, yesterday, in my old stomping grounds of Pittsburgh, trying not to contemplate what I’d find if I, in a Venter-ish burst of entrepreneurship, isolated DNA from random swatches of fabric from the sheets and pillowcases and sent them to 454 for a ultra-broad sequencing run [I guess an ultra-deep run for certain loci would be fun too, as this is geographical area has large numbers of “hard working white Americans that vote for Hillary Clinton (though mainly for Republicans come November)] and given the increasing and publicly available data on a variety of genomes (of Neandertals, for instance) who knows what manner of phylogenetic trees we might build with hotel-room-sheet DNA from the Pennsyltucky-West Verginny area? But I digress---I was trying NOT to think of these things as I had to sleep on said bed using said pillows and in order to cause sufficient cessation of cranial activity to accelerate my passage into the 8 hours of oblivion, I started channel-cruising on the TeeVee.

Of course, almost immediately I ran into some news station playing a clip of Hillary Clinton’s speech somewhere in Kentucky where she (this is not verbatim but accurately conveys the essence of what she said) claimed that if one tallied up the electoral votes in all the states she had won then she’d have like 300 electoral votes but Obama would have only 217 in the ones he has won. So, she claims, she can win the bigger states and she can win the general election (while Obama cannot) and therefore she is the stronger nominee. Now, we have heard variations of this before; for instance, when Bill asserted a while ago that if we followed Republican Party rules of winner-take-all, Hillary would already have sewn up the nomination.

Firstly, just because Hillary won the NY and California democratic primaries, it doesn’t mean Obama will not win those states in the general election in November; indeed, especially this year, the Democratic nominee is almost guaranteed to win them in November (and I’d further submit that if Obama has significant trouble doing so it will be chiefly due to Hillary’s poisoning of her voting bloc). Also, even if Hillary won the Ohio, Texas and (say) Florida primaries, there is absolutely no guarantee that she will be able to win these states in a general election in November. So, although I can see how her absurd argument will appeal to, and fly with, the addled and biased minds of her voting bloc, Hillary really needs to quit with the non sequiturs. She’s looking silly.

Secondly, we cannot change the rules midstream. Hillary knew (or should have known) the game from the beginning. We are not playing winner-take-all. We are not playing by Republican Party rules. Just because she was over-confident/callous/incompetent then, doesn’t mean she can spin the rules now. The fact remains that Obama, a relative newcomer and serious underdog a few months ago, did a good job of familiarizing himself with the rules of the game and put into motion a pretty fucking good plan to win based on the rules of the Democratic Party nomination process. He beat Hillary at what was supposed to be her strength---political strategizing savvy born from experience. If only for this fact, Obama deserves the Democratic nomination.

Anyway, then I also came across something else that she and her campaign are touting recently---that she is leading the popular vote if one counted Florida and Michigan. This is also on her website, and it cites ABC news as the source.

I have a couple of problems with this claim:

1) You cannot count the votes in Florida and Michigan. They broke the rules, the Party stripped them of the delegates, and the elections there were effectively null and void before they were even held. End of story.

2a) And just because I couldn’t resist, I had to go look at the numbers. And here are the popular vote tallies if one counted Florida and Michigan, using Clinton’s source, ABCNews:

Clinton 16,691,639

Obama 16,648,060

So, according to this source, Clinton is ahead by 43, 579 votes. (As an aside, the state by state voting numbers are different, albeit slightly, on than on the ABC site--- but since 43579 works out to be 0.13% of the total Clinton+Obama votes I wonder whether it clears any site-to-site error margins. I need to find certified vote tallies. But anyway, that’s an aside, as the more important point follows).

2b) These totals were arrived at by assigning Obama ZERO votes in Michigan. If you recall, Obama (along with Edwards and Richardson) withdrew his name from the Michigan ballot before the primary. Hillary did not. So according to ABC News, this is how the voting broke down in Michigan:

Clinton 328,309

Uncommitted 238,168

Kucinich 21,715

Dodd 3,845

Gravel 2,361

So Clinton gets to add 328,309 votes to her tally, but Obama gets bupkis. As Borat would say, Niiiice!

It is great to see Hillary argue that (the votes in FL and MI should count, as) one shouldn’t disenfranchise any voters. So what about the 238,168 who voted ‘Uncommited’ when they may have wanted to vote ‘Obama’? I guess it is OK to disenfranchise them as they didn’t vote for Hillary, right? In reality, Obama probably wins two-thirds of the ‘Uncommited’ vote if he leaves his name on the ballot---and that puts him comfortably ahead.

In any case, it is pathetic for Hillary to cling to such math. It is really dangerous for her to portray herself as being the popular vote winner and then set up an argument that the nomination may have been stolen from her---this could irreversibly alienate many of her voters from Obama. The truth is that she is about 700,000 votes short as of now, that is all. And that is because the reality is that the FL and MI primaries are meaningless --- they broke the rules, were declared void, and nobody campaigned there.

Absent of campaigning and before the process began Hillary was the shoo-in candidate, remember? Before Obama campaigned in PA he was down by 30 points; eventually he only lost by 9 points and change. He campaigned well in Indiana and lost it by less than 2 points. And so on. Clinton had way more name recognition in the early stages of this process; also Obama has shown that he wins over a ton of people when they get a chance to listen to him. I can make a pretty good argument that if normal campaigning had taken place in FL and MI, Obama could have narrowed the gap significantly in FL and might have possibly won MI.

But the point is Hillary knew the game going in; she got her shot and blew it.

The New England Patriots don’t get to do-over the SuperBowl by claiming that they had a better season record, or that Brady had a better stats day than Manning despite being repeatedly planted into the turf, or that they were leading with less than 2 minutes to go, or anything like that.

Gore doesn’t get a do-over for 2000 even though he won the popular vote.

You are given the rules before the process starts and you figure out a way to win within those parameters. If Obama has more delegates, he should be nominee. And Hillary should quit poisoning Democratic voters’ minds with racist innuendo and electoral spin.


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drdrA said...

'the Democratic nominee is almost guaranteed to win them in November'

OMG- don't say it! It is bad luck to say that..

Drugmonkey said...

I want to see that hotel-sheet study conducted!

Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde said...

Ugh, the hotel sheets would probably reveal a lot of Pediculosis capitis too...

I'm with you on the Hillary. If she'd actually won, I'd support her, I'd send her money if it looked like she needed it, and I'd sure as shit vote for her in November, despite the fact that I am not in a remotely swingy state.

And I can respect her for staying in and fighting in the face of obvious loss (not perhaps, for some of her fighting tactics, but still--for fighting nonetheless).

But come June 3 she had better hand it over to Obama, with every gracious phrase in her playbook. Or I will personally lead the fight to get her turfed out of the Senate.

Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde said...

p.s. nice use of the genitive.

Anonymoustache said...

My morbid curiosity would like to see that study too! Got any grant money to spare?

Dr. J,
I had to look up pediculosis and genitive---so I learned two new things already today!
And thanks for the comment too. I guess Hillary does deserve some respect for fighting till the last vote is cast. But her tactics/arguments could be a lot better.
Also, I do think she will campaign furiously for Obama eventually. From a cynical point of view one could say she has no other choice in order to regain some of her lost lustre--- but I still prefer to think a bit better of her than that.