Saturday :: Nov 3, 2007

About That "Politics of Hope" Thing


by eriposte

Tim Grieve has a long article in Salon.com criticizing the Clinton campaign for one of their messaging tactics. One of the main points of focus in his article is this (emphasis mine, throughout):

As we began to write this post, we received another e-mail message from the Clinton campaign. This one, a memo to "interested parties" from Clinton strategist Mark Penn, accuses Edwards and Obama of having "abandoned" the "politics of hope" by declaring that they're "going to go negative" on the Democratic front-runner.

Here's our memo in response: Stop.

When Obama spoke of the "politics of hope" during his speech at the Democratic National Convention, he did so to contrast it with what he called the "politics of cynicism" and the "politics of anything goes," the "spin masters" and "negative ad peddlers" who would divide Americans, liberal against conservative, black against white, red state against blue.

If Obama was suggesting that one candidate couldn't or shouldn't make it clear that he disagrees with another on matters of substance, well, he didn't say that then, and he's not saying that now.

In summary, he says:

If Clinton was serious about having a "dialogue" -- if part of her own hope for America is that we'll have a more open society than the one in which we've lived for the past six years -- then it's high time for her campaign to stop trying to shame its opponents into silence. Engage with the criticisms or ignore them; just don't argue that it's wrong to raise them in the first place.

Predictably, there's now a nicely stenographed Recommended Diary at Daily Kos with the title: "Salon Slams Clinton Team for Attempting to Silence Debate". (Wow, Hitlery Hillary tried to silence the debate! Shocking indeed!)

Now Tim is a smart guy but the Clinton campaign can at best be accused of silly, inane and predictable word games. "Abandoning the politics of hope" is their spin in response to the Obama campaign's spin about "the politics of hope". All campaigns use spin. I would not advise the Clinton campaign to keep using this phrase because it is tiresome. But Grieve interprets this phrase to mean something else altogether and is unfortunately wrong. He says the Clinton campaign should engage with the criticisms or ignore them. He in fact provides direct evidence that they engage with the criticism - their means of engagement is to send people like Tim articles in the Press about Sen. Clinton's opponents or campaign commentary on her opponent's statements or positions (not to mention her responses to her opponents in the debates). He also provides direct evidence that the Clinton campaign sometimes ignores criticisms - that is what the silly "he abandoned the politics of hope" emails are, Tim! However, he does NOT provide any evidence for the one thing he claims they are doing - namely, arguing that it is wrong to raise criticisms in the first place! This is strangely similar to the blog post sometime ago by Paul Hogarth who claimed that Clinton avoids tough questions - without realizing that he provided multiple pieces of evidence in his own post about how she actually does not avoid tough questions.

Let's set all that aside though. The far more substantive issue here is something that Tim is unfortunately missing. It is easy for a politician to run on "the politics of hope" and pretend that it is not that difficult to unite people and that someone else is too polarizing. But if the "politics of hope" does not mean "that one candidate couldn't or shouldn't make it clear that he disagrees with another on matters of substance", then it is important to understand that Hillary Clinton did not get to where she is today - being "polarizing" - because she abandoned the "politics of hope". It is because the "politics of hope" had been abandoned by her Republican opponents - and the media - in the past 1-2 decades. It is because she didn't try to pretend that sharp divisions don't exist on matters of substance with those who abandoned the "politics of hope". Sen. Obama may believe that it is possible to have sharp disagreements on policy or substance and maintain a non-polarizing personality in today's media and electoral environment, but let's get real. Most Democrats would love to run on "the politics of hope" but one hand alone cannot clap - if the other side (i.e., the GOP) doesn't co-operate, a "politics of hope" campaign might quickly become the "politics of hopeless" campaign. That's the real issue here - not the Clinton campaign's silly word games.

eriposte :: 11:10 AM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!