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All the Baggage, None of the Charm
She’s not Bill, and Bill’s not running—thank god
US observer Daniel Patrick Welch writes on the presidential campaign with all the dutiful enthusiasm of one covering a sports event in which the local team has been shut out. There's no real debate, but as with every horse race, there's always someone to bet on--or against.
I should start with full disclaimer: The only Democratic candidate I hold in lower esteem than Hilary Clinton might be Barack Obama. This is not a pro-Obama piece. In a recent argument with a potential Clinton voter who accepted the critique of Obama but rejected it for Clinton, I reminded my interlocutor that they were, in fact, the same candidate: twin cheeks on the same fat corporate ass, as it were.
So why do I care that the HillBilly Machine got so roundly trounced in South Carolina? In the first place, with no discussion of any substance anywhere in the current "debate," the only genuine emotion left is the bookie’s adrenaline rush, which from a distance amounts to a sort of minor high on some vague perception that the good guys won or the bad guys lost.
South Carolina seems to be the race where the mud gets slung, viz the repulsive re-torture of John McCain by Karl Rove’s machine in 2000 to Clinton 42’s shameless patronizing this week. I would call it the mud race, but in a state so officially racist that it still flies the confederate flag it would certainly be twisted. Hillary—let’s call her Clinton 44 with a question mark—tried to flee the state and let 42 do her dirty work. Nice try, Hil. The only thing as ugly as seeing Slick Willie get pounced on by the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is the underlying slickness of the Willie itself-—or himself.
Bill led the not-so-subtle charge, carefully calculated to be in his wife's absence, against Obama in a thinly veiled race appeal that was so widely rejected as to discredit the entire campaign. Deader Clintons have risen before, and this race race is far from over. It may be that voters were just sick of being told—-in the tone he once used for Sista Souljah and Christiane Amanpour—that they had to vote for his wife. It may just have been too much, and after the dust settles the money and the machine will turn back the Obama tide.
I suspect, though, that something deeper is at work. Bill's charm failed so miserably to carry the day, or even to stem the tide just a little bit, that it augurs a shift in voter consciousness, if any such oxymoron can be written about the US electorate without the computer screen exploding at the end of this sentence. Whew—glad I got away with that. But face it-—Bill is pretty much the ultimate weapon. HillBilly Inc. will now start to ratchet down the reliance on Hurricane Bill to storm through a state to move constituencies with a wink and a nod. They will say it was never their intention for Hil to be overshadowed by Bill, and on and on ad nauseam. But the die has been cast. Clinton’s whole shtick—-an enormous fraud though it be—is the sham repetition of her vaunted "experience," even in her own words, of "knowing the White House from the inside."
Ugh. Even the Republicans know to run from this canard, taking their traditional pains to distance themselves from the same Washington that keeps feeding their fattest warmonger paymasters. Bill stands at her side, or behind her or in another state altogether, but always as the word made flesh-y, or pudgy, perhaps, the living example of all the experience the two of them can muster. But with Clinton, the claims are no less sleazy or hollow. With eleven years' legislative experience to Clinton's seven, Obama has yet to effectively expose this ponzi scheme for what it is: a sort of peek-a-boo reliance on HillBilly history when it suits, and pandering to the need for "change" when it doesn't.
Hillary Clinton's experience, from Rose Law to her awful health care attempt to standing by Bill at every turn to her complete failure to mobilize any resistance to the ongoing War Crime that is the US government of which she is part—-this so-called experience is nothing anyone should be touting. Yet tout away she does, at every opportunity-—it is, in fact, her entire campaign. It is wearing, tiresome, boring, and above all, fraudulent. It is simply amazing that she has not been called on it; the tired repetition about hard work and nose-to-the-grindstone crap is the refuge of the candidate who has nothing else to sell. It all amounts to a sort of cranky my-turnism, a la Bob Dole or John McCain, the notion that she somehow deserves it while others don’t.
Of course, it goes without saying that the US should be able to elect a woman president. After Golda Meir, Benazir Bhutto, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel and a host of others, Americans are decidedly behind the curve, as in so many other things despite our high opinion of ourselves. Besides, even this short list gives an inkling that gender is no guarantee of good leadership or policy; the bottom line is it may very well not happen this time, and for god’s sake nobody said it had to be you.
Bill brought up the specter of Jesse Jackson this week, in a decidedly negative way, saying that he won a few primaries and caucuses but obviously didn't win the nomination. The clear implication was a warning to South Carolina's huge Black Democratic constituency not to cast a feel-good vote that wouldn't have national impact. It is also coded with the obvious message that the US is readier for a woman president than a Black one, and that they should stay the course and "leave with the guy what brung ya." God bless the democrat voters of South Carolina for telling him figuratively to shove it up his ass.
Not only is HillBilly playing with fire for the obvious reason that the race/gender card can be flipped. His slick and calculating (albeit backfiring, thankfully) use of Jackson’s history there is especially revolting. When Jesse Jackson won South Carolina and the south, with an actual Black base and as an actual Black candidate, it was against a deck stacked by Clinton's mentors and friends in the nascent Democratic Leadership Council, who thought that a southern Super Tuesday would prevent just such a spectre from becoming the party’s albatross in the general election.
When Jackson proved them wrong, further rigging and fine-tuning led to the now complete banishment of anyone with a progressive agenda from advancing anywhere near the national stage, apart from a few border collies left nipping at the party’s left flank to keep voters who want actual change from bolting. Make no mistake: choosing Obama over Clinton is just as silly as vice versa: Obama's campaign itself held Jackson at arms' length in his home state. There will not be another democrat who calls for cutting the war budget, or who has the guts to say to a national audience that Arabs "cannot continue to be made paraiahs." Campaign sloganeering aside, there will be no change trickling down from any candidate in this race.
The first and greatest beneficiary of this shame was none other than Clinton himself, and his finger-in-the-wind complicity and cowardice yields the two sanitized, corporate approved war-friendly candidates we have today. It is beyond appalling for him to try to make hay out of this wreckage of his own party’s history. Shame on him. He should know when to keep his fat, fake ass, philandering mouth shut. No matter what they say, increasing numbers of democrats will flock to Obama for the simple reason that he is not Clinton. It holds little meaning, of course, but who can blame them?
© 2008 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted with credit and link to
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Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia
Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. Translations of articles are available in over two dozen languages. Links to the website are appreciated at