Howard Dean’s infamous and highly televised scream is comical now, but it was the precise moment in his campaign when he became unelectable. Though shielded by flawless composure, hidden from the critical eyes and ears of television cameras, opposition moles and concealed tape recorders, Senator Clinton must also be teetering on the verge of stark, raving madness.
An astute politician, she’s mindful of how such an outburst would demolish her and there is no shortage of onlookers hoping for such a spectacle. However, the screams of the private and unrestrained Clinton must be bloodcurdling. How else might you expect any normal, emotionally functional human being to respond to such an agonizing fall from pre-eminence?
Less than seven months ago, buoyed by the presumptive support of women, establishment Democrats and with near universal name recognition, Clinton was the undisputed front-runner for the nomination. Now each day greets her with fresh calls to immediately and quietly concede the nomination to the younger, enormously gifted, yet arguably less experienced Barack Obama.
Clinton worked her way up the proverbial ladder through the skilled mastery of a game whose rules were established ages ago. She played an essential role in orchestrating Bill Clinton’s rise to Arkansas Attorney General, Governor and then U.S. President while garnering the political capital necessary for her own successful run for office. Why is this amorphous mantra of “change” so widely accepted among many in her party now that she is next in line to drink from the trough? Why the fierce urgency to break from the “politics of the past” now?
Though suppressed, I imagine her screams are acutely heard by the countless number of highly talented women who strenuously climbed their own respective ladder, coming within arm’s length of the top but thwarted by the proverbial glass ceiling. Consider the following: There are only 12 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and just one atop a Fortune 50. Eight of America’s 50 governors are women. We have 100 senators. Only 16 are women. Ironically, a 2004 U.S. Census population survey illustrated that not only are there more registered women voters, but women vote at higher rates than men.
This isn’t an attempt to imply that women are the sole beneficiary of America’s storied history of prejudice as the numbers concerning racial minorities in key business and government leadership positions are even more dismal. I imagine, however, that it’s difficult for many of Clinton’s supporters-particularly women-to not believe that there isn’t at least a hint of sexism at play.
Notwithstanding her faults, and they’re numerous, her pursuit of the nomination-and also that of Obama’s-should supersede party politics, which is why super-delegates should not have gotten involved until all pledged delegates dried up. Then they should ratify the will of the popular vote, which ultimately will end with Obama as victor.
It’s often said that Republicans fall in line, while Democrats fall in love. This might best explain the Obama phenomenon and the Clinton fizzle. General election voters tend to be a bit more pragmatic and cynical, so he’ll have more convincing to do.
Clinton has contributed a great deal to the election and her party while expanding the notion of what’s possible for future generations of women. I now doubt that this one will see one of their own become president. Millions of women have lived vicariously through her, reliving their own triumphs and disappointments in hers. She couldn’t win the nomination on her terms, but she has earned the right to lose it that way.
It should be a spectacular convention.