Well, we will have Hillary Clinton to kick around some more, at least for another few weeks. The Mummy (as my radio pal Hugh Hewitt calls her) kicked open the sarcophagus door and, despite the rotting bandages dating back to Iowa, began staggering around terrorizing folks all over again. “She is a monster,” Obama adviser Samantha Power told a reporter from the Scotsman — and not a monster in a cute Loch Ness blurry long-distance kind of way but something far more repulsive and in your face. “You just look at her and think, ‘Ergh,’” continued Ms. Power, warming to her theme perhaps more than is advisable even in an interview with an overseas newspaper.
The New York Times took a different line. The only monster is you — yes, you, the American people. Surveying the Hillary-Barack death match, Maureen Dowd wrote: “People will have to choose which of America’s sins are greater, and which stain will have to be removed first. Is misogyny worse than racism, or is racism worse than misogyny?”
Do even Democrats really talk like this? Apparently so. As Ali Gallagher, a white female (sorry, this identity-politics labeling is contagious) from Texas, told the Washington Post: “A friend of mine, a black man, said to me, ‘My ancestors came to this country in chains; I’m voting for Barack.’ I told him, ‘Well, my sisters came here in chains and on their periods; I’m voting for Hillary.’ ”
When everybody’s a victim, nobody’s a victim. Poor Ms. Gallagher can’t appreciate the distinction between purely metaphorical chains and real ones, or even how offensive it might be to assume blithely that there’s no difference whatsoever. But, if her sisters really came here in chains, it must have been Bondage Night at the Mayflower’s Swingers’ Club. On the other hand, Barack’s ancestors didn’t come here in chains either: his mother was a white Kansan, so was presumably undergoing menstrual hell with the Gallagher gals, and his dad was a black man a long way away in colonial Kenya. Indeed, Senator Obama would be the first son of a British subject to serve as president since those slaveholding types elected in the early days of the republic. As some aggrieved black activist sniffed snootily on TV, Barack isn’t really an “African-American” — unless by “African-American,” you mean somebody whose parentage is half-American and half-African, and let’s face it, no one would come up with so cockamamie a definition as that.
As for victims, you have to feel sorry for John Edwards. He was born in a mill. He weighed 1.6 pounds and what did his dad get? Another day older and deeper in debt. John spent most of his childhood in chains workin’ in the coalmine. He spent most of the 19th century as a spindly seven-year-old sweep with rickets cleaning chimneys in Dickensian London until Fagin spotted him and trained him up as a trial lawyer. And it worked swell in the 2004 primary but it counted for nothing this time round because, even with all that soot on his face, he’s still a white boy. Bill Richardson was the first Hispanic candidate but nobody needs a Hispanic called “Bill Richardson”. Hillary assumed she’d be the last identity-pol standing in a field of bouffant poseurs like Joe Biden, only to discover that by the time she got to the final round the Democratic primary process had descended to near parody — or, as the New York Times headline put it, a “Duel Of Historical Guilts.”
That’s one “historical guilt” too many. If it’s Historical Guilt vs. Joe Biden and John Edwards, bet on Historical Guilt, and the Democratic base uniting around Hillary and baying “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar”. Instead, it’s “I Am Woman, Hear Me Whine About The Unfairness Of It All,” as the Clintonites go nuclear and accuse Obama, the ultimate cool black dude, of “imitating Ken Starr,” the ultimate uptight squaresville honky. Which may be a marginally less ineffective line of attack than Gloria Steinem (now 112 but still fabulously hot) complaining to The New York Observer that way too many Americans want “redemption for racism” but not enough want “redemption for the gynocide.” Which may, in turn, be a marginally less fatal shot in the foot than former Carter-administration honcho Andrew Young’s perplexing boast that Bill Clinton has slept with more black women than Obama.
The Democratic primary season seems to have dwindled down into a psycho remake of Driving Miss Daisy. The fading matriarch Mizz Hill’ry (Jessica Tandy) doesn’t want to give up the keys to the Democratic-party vehicle but the dignified black chauffeur Hokey (Morgan Freeman) insists it’ll be a much smoother ride with him in the driver’s seat, full of gear change you can believe in, etc. Yet, just as he thinks the old biddy’s resigned to a nomination as Best Supporting Actress, the backseat driver plunges her hat pin into his spine, wrests the wheel away and lurches across the median.
Is the Democratic presidential process a Karl Rove plot? Right now, neither Mizz Hill’ry nor Hokey can win without the votes of the “super-delegates,” whose disposition is apparently in flux. The gay super-delegates, as I noted a week or two back, are apparently sticking to Hillary like the Hello, Dolly! waiters to Carol Channing. But others are said to be moving Barackwards. Are they jumping to a stalled bandwagon? One Historical Guilt gives upscale white liberals a chance to demonstrate their progressive bona fides in unison and with nary a thought. Two Historical Guilts shrivels from transformative feelgood fluffiness into sour tribalism. Like Hillary’s “I Am Woman” routine, Obama’s cult of narcissism — “We are the change we have been waiting for” — would have been a shoo-in against Biden, Dodd, and Edwards. But the gaseous platitudes wafting up to Cloud Nine are suddenly very earthbound. “Yes, we can!” is an effective pitch if you’re the new messiah, not so much when you’re pulling in a very humdrum fortysomething percent against a divisive and strikingly inept campaigner.
Go back to that Maureen Dowd line: “People will have to choose which of America’s sins are greater.”
“People won’t, Democrats will,” the blogger Orrin Judd responded. “People will elect John McCain in November, demonstrating that we don’t share their guilt.”
Maybe. But a Democrat nominating process that’s a self-torturing satire of upscale liberal guilt confusions will at least give us a laugh along the way.
© 2008 Mark Steyn