Wishful Thinking



Here's an example of it:

I believe that they're far more wary of the Clinton machine than the Obama phenomenon because a phenomenon can be pricked or pop of its own accord, leaving behind a melting irridescence, whereas a machine like Clinton's feeds on the negativity thrown at it, a juggernaut nightmare designed to keep the opposition guessing over every move and plunge Andrew Sullivan into clammy angst ("I woke up in a cold sweat early last Wednesday").

Now, far be it from me to question the wisdom of a man who has also floated dubious theorems like Kathy Griffin Is Funny and Law & Order Is Still Good. I admire Wolcott, and I do enjoy a good mocking of Andrew Sullivan. But still-- "juggernaut"? Really? And unless the whole Ferraro thing was some kind of masterfully opaque, almost Resnais-like mindgame whose payoff is far down the road, does anyone think Sen. Clinton's campaign has really kept the opposition "guessing over every move," like Kronsteen in From Russia With Love?

I say this with more regret than you might imagine: coming into the 2008 campaign, I had high hopes for Sen. Clinton, whose wonkiness I find appealing and whose experiences as the target of attacks during the Clinton years made her, I thought, a formidably toughened candidate. If she's the nominee, I will vote for her, and she might make a great President. But she's run an uninspired, unimaginative campaign, whose tone-deaf responses and reliance on continual outrage suggest less a juggernaut than, well, clammy angst, to use Wolcott's phrase.

And it's an angst that's as much generational as gendered or racial. I certainly wouldn't deny the role the latter two have played this year, but this feels as much like a boomer/post-boomer face-off as it does male against female, or white against black. The story in today's Times about SNL suggests candidate bias without noting that SNL is very much a product of a boomer sensibility, and that its clustering around Clinton (as well as Jack Nicholson's and Rob Reiner's campaign video), feels like a generational closing of the ranks around one of their own (oddly enough, the usually out-of-it Slate suggested an interesting generational split between SNL and Colbert the other day). Wolcott's closing passage-- "With their lipless smiles and lidless eyes, conservative connivers don't even bother to disguise their duplicity, so proud and gleeful are they of their little tricks. And why shouldn't they be, when so many liberal bloggers and pundits are ready to fall for them?"--is frustrating in precisely the way so much of the commentary has been this spring: it wraps an important point ("Conservative pundits are playing games...") around a smug statement of moral superiority ("...and only my candidate's supporters can see The Truth"). In this framework, Sen. Obama can't win: he's read as both too slick and too naive, too young and playing games with his age (Obama, apparently, is a boomer when we need him to be). For all the rather problematic criticism of Sen. Obama as running a "mesiah" campaign, it strikes me that Wolcott's kind of wishful thinking is actually far more religious: full of martyrdom and self-righteous moral separation, claims of a visionary truth, and a constant refrain of, "trust us, just wait, the juggernaut's coming."

Comments

Jonathan Lapper said…
Nicely put Brian. I'm sorry I cannot share any admiration for Hillary whatsoever (not even begrudgingly as you do) but I agree wholeheartedly that this is a generational clash and with all due respect to Wolcott (and you, ever so slightly I'm assuming, because of your statement at the opening) Andrew Sullivan has pointed that out over and over and over again.

The boomers can't believe they're being pushed out and Hillary is, quite frankly, making them all look worse. I do not buy into the idea that negativity, slander, lying and arrogance makes one tough. I'm sick of hearing Clinton supporters tell me she is tough based on these immense character flaws. I believe staying calm, reflective and on-message in the face of that makes one tough and that's what I believe Obama has done. And I think it's driving them crazy that he's not playing by their rules or crumbling when they want him to.
Jonathan Lapper said…
Oh, and I should mention that Wolcott's entire argument is based on weak conjecture and Kristol columns. "Aha," says our 'will never ever make the Harvard Debate team' Wolcott,"Kristol praised him at first but then when Obama looked to have the nomination secured he blasted him."

Um, yeah. See, here's the thing James: They're going to blast whoever the frontrunner is because they want the Republicans to win.

And sorry, but I want the Democrats to win and with a hefty percentage of the voting public (near fifty percent in most, 51 in one I saw a few weeks ago) saying they wouldn't vote for Hillary I want Obama to get the nomination.

Although I do suspect despite those polls that either Clinton or Obama could beat McCain in November by carrying the larger electoral rich states to McCain's smaller midwest and southern states.
Brian Doan said…
Hey Jonathan,
Yes, I think they could both beat McCain, although I agree that Obama might have the better shot. I think the tricky thing about polling right now is that (for the general election, anyway) it's so hypothetical: we don't know who the nominee is, don't know how the dynamic of the race might change when it's Dem v. Repub. instead of "Dem v. Dem v. Repub.," and so on. Will Obama/Clinton supporters really be as resentful if their choice doesn't get the nom as polls now suggest? Will things change when one of them has the full resources of the party behind them, instead of it dividing in half? Who knows? My hope is that, if she is the nominee, Clinton will be able to run a better race with that support behind her, instead of the lackluster one she's running so far (I really don't want a President McCain). I guess we'll see, but my main question is where Wolcott was getting this evidence of her campaign supremacy beyond, well, the audacity of hope.

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