Hillary and mendacity

I’ve been following the Democratic primaries in the US with interest. It is all over now, except in the opinion of Hillary Clinton. 48 states, plus Puerto Rico, have voted; two more will vote on Tuesday, but they are too small to make a difference. Barack Obama is far ahead in delegate count, and is likely to end on top after the “superdelegates” are counted too.

So why is Hillary pressing on? She claims that she has won the “popular vote” (received more individual votes than Obama) and therefore is more likely to win the general election.

The problem is, that claim is bogus, like so much else about the Clintons.

First, it counts Michigan and Florida in full, though those states were disenfranchised for moving their primaries without permission and neither candidate campaigned there. (Hillary had no problem with the disenfranchisement until she fell behind in the other states.) Enfranchising them now means ignoring the votes of those who stayed home assuming their votes wouldn’t count. (The states have been reinstated but each delegate will now have half a vote.)

Second, it does not count a single popular vote for Obama in Michigan. That’s because Obama (like Edwards and most other candidates) withdrew himself from the ballot in that state, because of the sanction. Hillary was the only serious candidate; nevertheless, 45% of the electorate voted “uncommitted”, and nearly all of them would have voted either Obama or Edwards (who has endorsed Obama). Hillary doesn’t want those votes to count.

Third, she doesn’t count many of the caucus states which did not release popular vote tallies. And even the caucus states that did release vote tallies would weigh much lower, because an order of magnitude fewer people vote in caucuses.

Fourth, she counts Puerto Rico, which does not vote in the general election.

If Hillary wanted to stay honest about even one of the above points, she could not claim the popular vote lead. But as it stands, she is turning into a parody of Saturday Night Live’s savage portrayal of her a few weeks ago.

Which brings me to the last SNL point about Hillary: “I have no ethical standards… Obama has been reluctant to play the race card, but I would be happy to play the gender card.” Indeed, she has been complaining of sexism and belittled the racism exhibited against her opponent. (Seriously. Would anyone, at the height of “Freedom Fries” days, have predicted that a black man with a surname one letter away from “Osama” and a middle name shared with Iraq’s former dictator would be a serious presidential candidate? But despite his progress, channels like Fox continue their Obama-Osama confusion.)

My take on that issue is: in the developed world, lots of women have reached the top spot: Margaret Thatcher and Mary Robinson in the past, Angela Merkel today. But nobody from an ethnic minority, that I can recall, has ever been elected president or prime minister. There is no doubt to me whose victory would be more historic, and who has faced hurdles in his path. And let’s not forget that Hillary’s path has been smoothed (though also roughened) by her husband.

Faced with clamours to quit, she protested recently that primaries can go on till June, as Bill’s did, and doesn’t anyone remember that Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June? (She then pretended that she didn’t see the implications of that statement.) As for Bill, he remembered it differently in his autobiography.

People have been asking her to bow out gracefully. But grace is not a defining characteristic of the couple who left the White House armed with valuable gifts, having pardoned wealthy fugitives like Marc Rich on their way out.

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  1. One correction. Hillary would be ahead in the popular vote even if all the uncommitted votes in Michigan are alloted to Obama as long as you don’t count the caucus states. Not that I am saying caucus should not be counted.

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