Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Running Mate from Hell

As a woman on the one hand, and an amateur armchair politico on the other, I have to say I am beginning to fear for my sex. The source of my distress being those hordes of Hillary supporters, who are mutating in front of my eyes into vulture demonesses of uninhibited malice.

More and more do they appear to resemble the frenzied female worshippers of Dionysus--that entranced retinue of "raving ones" who were known as Maenads and could not be reasoned with. "If she doesn't get the nomination," they howl with one voice, "we will vote for McCain." One gets the distinct impression these women could show up en masse at the Convention, like Stalinists gathering in Red Square to start an October Revolution, create a rampage, build a bonfire, do a war dance, and, in one huge orgiastic Bacchanalia, kill Orpheus, should he get the nomination instead of her. So much for the fate of the "dream ticket," which is fast becoming a nightmare.

What will Clinton's terms of surrender be? asks Karen Tumulty in this week's Time magazine. It is the question of the hour--does she, or doesn't she, want to be on the ticket as Obama's running mate? And does he even want her? So far, nobody seems to know the answer to these questions. Husband Bill, according to Tumulty, believes his wife has earned the right to be offered the VP, and is pushing for it. Hillary herself has remained mute, but we do know that in her own self-created narrative of this election, caucuses don't count, Pledged Delegates don't count, Super Delegates don't count: only popular votes count. And in her private math, she is leading in the popular vote because (1) prior signed agreements not to campaign in Florida and Michigan are null and void, (2) Michigan votes count even though she was the only one on the ballot, and (3) Florida votes count even though she signed an agreement that they wouldn't.

Meanwhile, as columnist Ellen Goodman points out, bad feelings among Hillary supporters have raised the banner of misogyny, and as Clinton veers wildly from bully to victim, we have to wonder whether she has blazed the path for women or just left an ugly footprint. Beyond that, as Maureen Dowd so snidely but deftly puts it, Obama must decide "the most efficacious means of doing to Hillary what she has been trying to do to him: putting her in her place."

So, the other huge question of the hour is, does Obama really need her to win the votes of women and all those "hard-working white Americans" who seem to prefer her to him? Is a Democratic win in the fall impossible to accomplish without this marriage of incongruity and inconvenience? Dowd is distinctly NOT in favor of the "dream ticket." And I absolutely agree with her when she claims that Hillary would not make a good "lady-in-waiting...holding up the train of the young prince who usurped her dream." She would have a hard time wishing him well. More likely she would be plotting her own ascent rather than contributing to his nobler aspirations.

But the most important reason for not choosing her, according to Dowd--in an observation I only wish I had made myself--is that she has "a strange, unnerving effect" on him, and around her, he is unable to do his best. "Obama," she says, in what to me is the penultimate conclusion to this whole mystifying muddle, "will never be at his best around Hillary; she drains him of his magical powers....He's no good around her, see?"

I do see it, and I think she's absolutely spot on.

P.S. Since writing this earlier today, I heard Obama say on TV, in response to a question about having Hillary as his VP, that Abraham Lincoln had incorporated four of his most intense critics and rivals into his cabinet, and that he, Obama, is a very pragmatic man who will put the needs and demands of the country before his personal preferences. Infer what you will from that....

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