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Too much chaos is never a good thing

April 28, 2008

Why Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are being too clever for their own good

Having been defeated in their attempt to prevent John McCain from becoming the Republican nominee, many on the Republican right have turned their attention to a rather surprising cause; helping get Hillary Clinton selected as the Republican nominee. Although a few commentators on the right, most notoriously the pundit Ann Coulter, may consider John McCain so repugnant as to make the election of Hillary Clinton preferable, the stated aim of these pundits is to delay the moment of Hillary’s concession, rather than to get her nominated. Indeed, the notorious ‘shock-jock’ Rush Limbaugh has stirred up massive controversy by stating that his ideal would be a brokered Democratic convention that ends in recriminations and disaster, stating ‘this is about chaos. .. the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that’. Rather appropriately, this attempt to get Republican voters to cast their votes for Clinton has been dubbed ‘Operation Chaos’.

However, even ignoring the utter irresponsibility of encouraging anything that could lead to violence, Limbaugh’s assumptions are faulty because Hillary could still win the nomination. Although Barack Obama is virtually certain to have a lead in pledged delegates by the time of the convention, such a lead doesn’t carry any more weight than Clinton’s lead in the total number of votes cast in the primaries and caucuses. At the same time Obama’s defeat in Pennsylvania reduces the chances of either enough super-delegates moving towards him or the possibility that a crowd of Democratic grandees will ‘take Hillary to one side’, something they have been reluctant to do so despite their leaning toward the Senator from Illinois. Although nominating Hillary will risk alienating younger voters, the sad reality is that many of them won’t vote anyway in November. In contrast, selecting Obama could alienate the swing voters and moderate that the Democrats need to win if they are to take the White House.

Although it has been claimed that any overall victory for Clinton would be pyrrhic, this is not the case. By selecting either Harold Ford, Sanford Bishop or Ken Salazar as her running mate, Hillary could heal the wounds created by the primary battle while appealing to the vital centre. All of these of these prospective running mates would boost her either the South or the Southwest, while neither of them have the huge amount of baggage, both ideological and personal, that Obama possess. Of course, Hillary Clinton is still intensely polarising, but in an environment where Democrats have a clear lead in party affiliation, this might not be the disadvantage that many commentators believe it to be. A Clinton-Ford or Clinton-Sanford ticket would also blunt the two major lines of attack that the Republicans plan to use against Obama, namely his inexperience and his ability to deal with the threat of terrorism. Having a moderate like Ken Salazar on the ticket would boost turnout among Hispanic-Americans, the one traditionally Democratic demographic where turnout can realistically be boosted.

Ironically, every exit poll has suggested that the majority of the Republicans taking part in the Democratic primaries have voted for Obama rather than Clinton. Although this could be evidence of Obama’s appeal it is far more likely that Republican voters see Clinton as the real threat to a McCain victory and are ignoring Coulter and Limbaugh’s attention seeking antics. It must also be pointed out that the Democrats managed to put the disturbances of August 1968 behind them to come, despite the fact that the outgoing President Lyndon Johnson was deeply unpopular, within a few votes of defeating Richard Nixon. This is a point that both those who rub their hands together at the prospect of chaos and those who are urging Hillary to drop out, ‘for the good of the party’, should remember and consider. Of course, John McCain is a stronger candidate than both Clinton or Obama, but Hillary should not be written off as a weak candidate by either friend or foe.

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