11 May 2008

By All Means, Please, Let the Machinations Begin...

As the winding, roller coaster Presidential campaign swerves headlong again this week, we are now entering a "Twilight Zone" kind of quasi-drama that even my most ardent of political science professors would have found perverse. The once-mighty Hillary Clinton camp is infected and watched like a contagion with a death wish...a wish that wants at all costs, mind you, to right a wrong done against it...and, as a result, there exists a new groundswell of those critics already finding ways to dissect the same candidate and her campaign. The Hillary politic, if you will, has not been even declared officially dead, yet the vultures not only have arrived, but are already picking away at some of the more tender parts on the failing frame. One week on, and I'm already sick of hearing and watching about it.

Politics has always been a ruthless and bloody sport, for certain. However, even though I did not vote for Senator Clinton and strongly disapprove of some of her campaign tactics, I've never been a proponent of being a 'standover man (woman)' of fresh roadkill. Perhaps I'm far too naive for this political world, or perhaps I've greatly underestimated the absolute hate some people harbour toward Senator Clinton (and her husband, too). Either way, beating someone's reputation down as some sort of sport is beyond nauseating to me. I know, I know...the old adage about words never cutting as brutally as a blade...but, really now, is drawing blood the only sign of a 'victor' these days? Perhaps I at least should learn to shield my eyes, if I cannot be shielded by someone else's sense of decency. Lost should not mean the same thing as beaten, even today.

Some writers, like the wonderful John Heilemann in "New York" magazine, do a nice work-up of the 'whys' of the Clinton campaign implosion and even offers up some answers to the numerous 'what ifs' that now dog the it's-all-over-now-Baby-Blue analysis. And...shock...he doesn't resort to an attack on either candidate in his final summation. I'm all for decency and equal treatment in this campaign, but Lord I just wish there was more of it to be found. Mr. Heilemann's article seems to be the exception, unfortunately, and not the rule. I especially have noticed this contrast in popular analysis since last week's primaries.

Clearly, it is open season now and the media smells blood. Even "Saturday Night Live", which just recently got rolled over the coals for a not-so-subtle apparent endorsement of Senator Clinton, did an about-face this weekend and turned in this stinging parody of why Hill's still in (which would have been far funnier, frankly, if so much of it were not so true). Ouch.

"Saturday Night Live" from May 10, 2008. "Message from Hillary Clinton" ®NBC Universal/GE 2008.

Friends, this is ugly stage. And unfortunately for those of us who want practically anyone other than Senator John McCain as the next leader of this land, I fear it will become uglier. After all, we've developed quite the appetite for this kind of 'succeed or you will be crushed' kind of spectacle from our politicians, from our sports heroes, from our celebrities, even from our competitors at work. Turning on Senator Clinton now...despite her numerous and high-profile flaws and successes...says so much more about us as a questionable society than any of her hateful attacks will be remembered for. (Editor's note, May 24: Well, maybe not...after these mind-boggling comments made by Senator Clinton about the late Robert F. Kennedy yesterday. Honestly, these are the type of comments that makes some of Hillary's 'non-believers' question her mental and emotional competence.)

There is an almost breathless and galloping desire, and perhaps an intentionally painful one, to take aim and (hopefully) slay all in the Clinton camp and its campaign She-Beast once and for all...or at least for this Presidential bid. Like an angry and rabid animal tainted with a poison it cannot expel, the media coverage of this candidacy's last gasps is one of sadness, awe, and prolonged anxiety. Something akin to the conjoined Siamese twins taken around tent shows at the beginning of the last century, heralded 'as being human but also not'... simultaneously. When will it end?, they ask. How will she go?, others counter. And, perhaps the question most likely to remain unspoken...how much damage has her campaign done or...(with a raised eyebrow worthy of the best second-rate off-Broadway hack)...how much does it still have left to do?? No withdrawal will be quick enough, no criticism strong enough, no departure graceful enough for our 'press'. At a moment when the media could attempt to stand above the fray and focus on the campaign and issues to come, instead they salivate at the potential threat (hope?) of a Democratic political knife attack. Again, I have no particular love for Senator Clinton, but this media mess harks back a little too close to the contests of the Roman Games for my liking. The more we make it into a cage match, the less it ends up being democracy. Or even anything close.

Media perversity aside, the pressing issue now is not if or when Senator Obama will become the Democratic nominee for President, but rather how (and how badly) the Clinton campaign goes down with the ship...and if she takes Obama and the Party down with her. If she does hang on for dear life, though, blame not Hillary for all of this drama...we Democratic voters, the primary state and national officials, the press, and those affiliated within the Party up and down the line, have created, allowed, and cheered on this all-out pandering circus. Delegate loopholes, legal challenges, racial and sexual and financial baiting, 'bitter' rurals, 'hard-working whites', ad nauseum...you name it, it will be exploited because it's the American way to challenge and bend the rules as we see fit, and especially so during an election year. 'Winner takes all' and all that bullshit. The fact that we look like materialistic, egotistical, trigger-happy, and holier-than-thou buffoons to the rest of the world be damned. This behaviour is what we will be remembered for, no matter who eventually occupies The White House.

And it is also precisely this same behaviour for which we should be, and will be, ashamed.

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