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I fired up my computer this morning to be confronted with the news that Clinton is STILL trying to poach superdelegates from Obama.  In spite of all the calls for her to drop out, in spite of all the marshaling of facts and figures, she will not concede.  I've felt for weeks now that she is very likely to take this fight all the way to the convention, and that feeling is growing stronger, not weaker, as time goes by.

Why are Clinton and her diehard supporters refusing to give up in the face of impossible odds?

I was e-mailing with a friend about some of the nuttier-seeming pro-Hillary protesters at the RBC meeting.  My friend (an Obama supporter like myeslf) made this observation:

There are some women who I think see Hill's run as vindication for every wrong perpetrated against them in their work and personal lives. [...] So imagine you were a hard working woman who was skilled at your job.  Over and over you get turned down for the promotion that is given to some backslapping guy who talks about sports and plays golf with the muckity-mucks.  Your husband leaves you after the youngest kid turns 18 years for a woman 20 years your junior.  Yeah, I'd be bitter too.

I can understand how this kind of experience would strongly shape a person's outlook.  But could this alone create the kind of seeming blind fervor of the most devout Clintonistas?  I think that's part of what's going on, but not the whole story.

(NOTE: I use the term "Clintonistas" as a pithy but neutral descriptor for Clinton supporters, just as some call Obama supporters "Obamanauts".  Also, it was short enough to fit nicely into the title field of this diary.  I mean no disrespect by it -- nor did I mean it in a gendered sense -- but I can see how it might have been taken as gendered and/or disrespectful.)

It occurred to me today that there is a traditional protocol in male-dominated organizations and subcultures about what happens when a contest concludes.  It's expected that losers will gracefully acknowledge winners, and basically fall in line and respect the hierarchy.  Complaining about the outcome of a competition is strongly scorned -- "There's no crying in baseball", etc.  The idea is that one may nurse one's private grudges and emotional bruises, but bad feelings should be channeled into future rounds of competition, rather than aired publicly and used to whip up resentment and stoke division within the ranks.

One can argue about whether this is good or bad (and of course it isn't always strictly observed), but I do think it's the dominant ethic in male hierarchies.  It's a form of emotional repression, and it's part of what has enabled men to form -- for better or worse -- highly disciplined, rank-oriented groups, such as sports teams and military units, in which leaders give orders and subordinates obey them with a minimum of questioning and dispute.

So when people say that it's time for Clinton to step aside and get behind the nominee, this is really standard rhetoric for this stage of the process -- it's what runner-up male competitors have been told in situations like this since the beginning of time.  

But perhaps to Clinton and some of her diehard female supporters, the calls for her to bow out sound like something else -- namely, men telling a woman to sit down and shut up.  I can understand why this would irritate women who have dealt with that sort of thing for decades... and in fact it may feel to some like accepting this outcome would be the ultimate betrayal of deeply-held feminist convictions.  

Of course there has been, and still is, real sexism directed against Clinton.  But I think some of her supporters are mistakenly interpreting as sexism what is, for the most part, the normal appeal for unity at this point in the election cycle.  

This is particularly true for those who do not have a lot of good, objective information about the rules and details of the primary process.  Case in point: ABC's Jake Tapper blogged over the weekend that some of the protesters at the RBC meeting mistakenly believed that if the FL and MI delegates had been granted full votes, Hillary would gain the lead in the delegate count.  In reality, of course, Obama would have still been ahead even if that had happened.

And when it comes to objective information, it doesn't help that many members of her campaign (including, it should be noted, plenty of men, like Bill, Terry McAuliffe, Harold Ickes, etc.) seem to be operating in the toxic Bushian mode of believing their own spin -- with regard to the "popular vote", the "electoral vote", MI and FL, the "white working class", etc.  I'm sure the campaign was not doing anything to disabuse the protesters of their confusion about the delegate count on Saturday.

All of this is producing a festering mess.  And the only person who is really in a position to end it is Clinton herself.  But I'm not sure she's going to.

A campaign ultimately reflects the psyche of the candidate -- and a signature trait of Clinton's campaign has been its inflexibility.  They failed to adapt to Obama's brilliant end run around the large, traditionally blue states; they did not act in time to stem ruinous financial losses; they stuck with bad managers like Patti Solis Doyle, and bad messengers like Mark Penn, long past their expiration dates.

This says something about Clinton herself.  She is incredibly disciplined, but not good at operating in rapidly shifting political winds.  Her attempts to launch fresh lines of attack against Obama every couple of weeks do not represent fundamental changes in campaign strategy, merely changes in surface rhetoric -- and they have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

Her inflexibility is her tragic flaw.  Now I fear that it may not only be her personal downfall, but that it may deal a crippling blow to party unity going into the fall.  I wonder if she is even psychologically capable of conceding before exhausting every single procedural loophole.  Remember how Bill resisted overwhelming pressure to resign during his impeachment?  I have no doubt that much of his tenacity was backstopped by hers -- they seem to feed off each other.  If she approaches this situation the way he approached that one, then she is not about to concede.  And the combination of her inflexibility, her supporters' deeply-ingrained resentments, and her campaign's relentless promotion of bogus information about the process, is a recipe for serious trouble ahead.

Originally posted to MaximusNYC on Mon Jun 02, 2008 at 08:58 AM PDT.

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