Monday, August 18, 2008

Week of 08/18/2008

The Hypothetical Hillary Screwjob
– by David Matthews 2

In the world of professional wrestling, there is a word called a “screwjob” which describes the kind of surprise plot twist that leaves the favored wrestler losing a match without actually being “beaten” by his opponent. Sometimes this is used so a “bad guy” can retain his championship title. Or sometime it’s done for him to win that title. Or sometimes it is done to introduce a serious change in storylines. Or sometimes it is done to justify an otherwise absolutely absurd result. (Repeat after me: “The NEW World Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Champion – David Arquette!”)

But the screwjob doesn’t happen just in scripted sports entertainment venues. Every so often you come across some truly unscrupulous people. People who really know the human condition and human behavior well enough to pull off some grand scheme to either swindle some money, right some cosmic wrong, or else act for their own personal entertainment as they slowly deprive a young man of his hopes and dreams. (Okay, that last part was probably sharing just a little too much information.)

In fact many a grand conspiracy theory involves the use of complicated plot twists and careful manipulations to bring you to the end result. And what brings down a lot of these theories is the fact that you have to have A LOT of things in play for it to be pulled off.

So before we go any further, let me preface this by saying that the plotline that you are about to read is COMPLETELY fictional! It is, as of this point, nothing more than the wild imagination of a politically independent commentator. Should it become something physical, though, this commentator holds no responsibility for the outcome, but would take the credit correctly guessing it.

The Scenario

We start with a very simple premise: after months of hard-hitting grueling campaigns, with accusations being thrown right and left, Senator Barack Obama manages to edge out Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton in the total number of pledged delegates, but still not enough to secure a hypothetical nomination for the Democratic Party’s candidate for President of the United States. As the primaries and caucuses wind down, though, more and more super-delegates – those independent delegates within the DNC who can vote for anyone – start declaring their support for Obama. Eventually enough super-delegates declare their support for Obama to secure that hypothetical nomination.

I say “hypothetical” because it still only exists on paper. It doesn’t really matter until the actual party convention in Denver when those delegates cast their votes.

And even though Hillary promises her supporters that she will continue to fight on all the way to the convention itself, she’s now facing an avalanche of calls from all sides to stand down. Those within her party want her to stand down, those originally supporting her want her to stand down, and even independent voices are calling on Hillary to admit defeat and stand down. The only people pushing for her to continue are her own dwindling supporters and the Republicans.

So how do you turn that around? How do you pull off the biggest political upset in the history of the United States?

Step one: Stand down.

Hillary suspends her campaign. She doesn’t admit defeat; she just says that she’s standing down for the good of the party and she asks that her people support Obama in order to retake the White House. She calls up Obama, congratulates him on running an excellent campaign, and asks that he help recover the millions in campaign money that she loaned herself. This takes the pressure off from her critics, and it doesn’t poison the party’s chances of winning in November, no matter who will eventually represent the Democrats.

Obviously her supporters, whipped into an estrogen-crazed frenzy over the months, don’t want the run to end, so she has to tell them to put all of that energy into beating the Republicans in November. But privately, the fires are still being stoked. If anyone asks, they can just say they’re pushing for the running-mate spot, even though it was pretty obvious during the campaign that Hillary Rodham-Clinton and her supporters refuse to play second-banana to ANYONE.

Support for Obama is lukewarm at best. The former President Clinton still carries some resentment. The former first-daughter doesn’t really campaign as much as when she was doing so for her mother. Hillary makes some appearances, but that’s pretty much it. Obama, meanwhile, gives an equally lukewarm push for supporters to help pay off Hillary’s self-imposed debt. In fact, it sometimes is given as an afterthought.

Step two: Fulfill the promise.

Hillary calls up Obama and tells him that there is still division in the ranks of the Democrats. There are still plenty of Clinton supporters that are carrying a grudge over what happened in the spring, and they may decide to stay home unless they’re given a peace offering.

“What kind of peace offering?” Obama asks.

“Help me make sure that Florida and Michigan get full representation at the convention,” she replied.

“We’ve been thought his before,” Obama hypothetically says. “In fact there was a very nasty meeting about that in May to settle the matter.”

“I know,” Hillary hypothetically says, “but you need the support of those two states to win in November, and my fear is that enough voters may either decide to stay home or vote for that spoiler Ralph Nader to give the election to John McCain, and you can’t afford for that to happen.”

“I don’t know, Hillary… that’s going to reopen some nasty wounds.”

“Yes but even with full representation, you still have enough delegates to secure the nomination, and this is something that I sort of promised to the Democrats in those two states that I would fix, so with you helping to make that a reality it will go a long way to showing unity within the ranks.”

“What about Dean?” he asks, referring to DNC Chairman Howard Dean. “Dean was pushing hard for those two states to be punished for breaking his rule.”

“Screw Dean!” Hillary bitterly responds in this fictional exchange. “Dean is nothing! He’s nobody! He’s a seat-warmer! I helped to put him in that job and I can take him out of that job anytime I want to! He doesn’t call the shots during the elections, we do. He does whatever we tell him to do. So are you with me on this?”

Obama thinks for a minute before replying. “Okay Hillary, if it helps to smooth things over with your people, I’ll talk to my people and we’ll see if we can make this happen.”

“Thanks Barack,” she replies with a devilish grin on her face. “You won’t regret this, I promise you… *Tee-hee!*”

(Reminder to Hillary supporters, this is STILL all fictional.)

Step Three: Back on the ballot

Polls come out, and even though Obama still has a hypothetic lead, it’s slipping. The Swift Boat attacks have begun hitting Obama in earnest, and it is clear at this point that Hillary will NOT be the running mate on the Obama nomination.

Now it’s time for another hypothetical call.

“You know, Barack,” Hillary says fictionally, “I was thinking… do you know what would really help your campaign at this point? Having my name in nomination during the roll call at the convention.”

“Excuse me?” Obama replies.

“No, seriously. I mean, I know that traditionally my name would be put up by the delegates of the first state and then withdrawn immediately afterwards, but what if my name stayed in there and we recognize all of the delegates that I had gathered?”

“Wait a minute… how does that help my campaign? Doesn’t that show the division that exists within our party? Isn’t something that the Republicans would want us to show?”

“Precisely,” she says hypothetically. “We let them THINK that we’re fragmented! But in reality we’ll be stronger than ever. I’ll be giving my speech on the night before the roll, so I’ll smooth things over and let people know that you are really the best and brightest this party has to offer. By the time the roll is called, the whole thing will still be just a formality, but all of the people who dedicated their lives to help out my campaign will be properly recognized and thanked for their fine service.”

“I don’t know,” Obama says hesitantly in this fictional exchange, “I thought that pushing for getting Florida and Michigan full representation would smooth things over. Now you’re telling me that this roll call thing would do it?”

“Oh, I… I mean, YOU… still need Florida and Michigan… to win in November, but this move would help with the rest of the Democrats. Besides, you’ll still end up winning the nomination. The whole roll call process is pretty much just a formality anyway.”

“I’m still hesitant about this.”

“Tell you what: our people… yours and mine… will make the announcement jointly, and then we’ll put out a statement recognizing that you are the eventual nominee for the Democrats. That way there will be no surprises going into this. Will you do this? For the party?”

After a few moments of hypothetical pondering, Obama replies. “Okay Hillary, I’ll get my people to go over the statement and I’ll contact the convention organizers to make sure that your name stays in nomination during the roll. I’m sticking my neck out on this, Hillary. It better pay off.”

“Oh it will,” she replies with a devilish grin. “It will… *Tee-hee!*”

(Remember, this is STILL just hypothetical!)

Step Four: The Turnaround

During the Democratic National Convention, delegates, lobbyists, party players, and party members all discuss the various issues that they will have to deal with in November. They party at fundraisers, they raise oodles of campaign money… and they make deals.

Bill Clinton speaks and gives a rousing memorable speech to challenge the Democrats to be the kind of people they were when they elected him in 1992. Hillary speaks the next night, and her speech sounds surprisingly presidential. And… surprisingly absent from her speech is any reference to Barack Obama as the eventual Democratic nominee. In fact some pundits speculate that this was the speech that Hillary WANTED to give if she had secured the nomination.

Obama, meanwhile, is oblivious to the turns of events as he is preparing for his masterpiece address after the roll is done the following night. He believes that this is finally HIS moment.

Step Five: The Screwjob

The Roll Call begins and the representatives of the fifty states and various territories and the District of Columbia step in front of the microphone, bark out their area, something unique about their area, and then their total delegate count for those going to Senator Obama and those going to Senator Clinton.

But it doesn’t take long for people to realize that something is off. As the state representatives start barking out numbers, Hillary starts getting more and more delegates. At first they’re written off as the few uncommitted super-delegates finally making their choices. But then more and more delegates originally promised to Obama suddenly go to Clinton.

Cameras in Senator Clinton’s suite show the senator silently watching with sly grin on her face. Her husband is chuckling.

The members of the media and their paid experts start buzzing about with hypothetical questions. It’s clear that at some time during the past few months since suspending her campaign, or maybe even during the convention itself, deals were being made between Clinton and all of the super-delegates. The fix was in, but would it be enough?

Pundits start speculating about what would happen should Obama lose his technical majority, or if Clinton should fail to secure the 2118 required delegates. What sort of deals would have to be made? How would this end? Could Clinton pull it off?

All across the country, Republicans laugh heartily at the news of this sudden insurgency. They’ve been praying for this very division to take place and here it was. They knew that even if Obama manages to win the day, it will show that the party is sill fragmented. And if Hillary pulls it off, then John McCain has a fighting chance to win in November.

Obama’s campaign people are in full crisis mode. This was something that they never counted on. They knew that Hillary Clinton was devious and manipulative, but they never would have counted on her pulling this particular stunt. They hope that there is still time to stop the process, to at least force a second vote so they can work over the delegates that switched, find out why and what it would take for them to switch back.

But no such luck, for as the representative from Wyoming gives his final count, it is clear that Hillary Rodham-Clinton has secured 2119 delegate votes, one vote over the threshold. She is now the Democratic Nominee for President of the United States. The Clinton campaign people are in joyful estrogen-laced ecstasy. Hillary is giving her trademarked cackle. Bill is beside himself in glee. The Obama camp is beside themselves in anger and betrayal. The members of the media are gushing about what a coup this was and announce that a whole new political game is being played.

The question: Can it happen?

Let’s get brutally honest here… the hypothetical scenario that I just presented to you IS just that, hypothetical. It is an incredible work of fiction. And in order to pull off the greatest screwjob in the history of politics, Hillary would have to make a lot of deals.

The funny part is that much of the groundwork to lead into that hypothetical scenario has already happened!

Getting Obama to ask supporters to recoup her campaign funds? Done.

Getting Obama to push for Florida and Michigan to get full representation? Done.

Getting Hillary’s name on the list of nominees during the roll call? Done.

The only thing missing would be convincing over 300 super-delegates to either vote for Hillary, or, at the very least, to reconsider their support for Obama. A daunting task if not for the fact that the focus on Hillary and her supporters pretty much dissipated once she suspended her campaign in June. Two-and-a-half months of being “under the radar” gives them plenty of time to work on those super-delegates.

And let’s not forget that a DNC super-delegate is free to change their support at ANY TIME until the roll call. They are not bound to any regional turnout. That was the whole reason why the position was created in the first place.

Then there are the consequences of this kind of political insurrection. It’s one thing to have disgruntled Clintonistas having to grudgingly support Obama. It’s another to have hardcore Democrats that have gotten used to accepting Obama as their presumptive nominee suddenly having to support Clinton with but a few weeks before debates. And as I pointed out earlier, the Republicans would LOVE to see this kind of insurrection, because it shows that Democrats are divided and disgusted at their own games. If Democratic chaos can get a manipulator like Richard Nixon elected in 1968, then it can get a political chameleon like John McCain elected forty years later.

The essential message is this: screwjobs DO happen in the real world, and they happen when we are the most gullible. And with Obama’s stance as the presumptive nominee essentially resting on nothing more than the word of some 300 super-delegates, he’s certainly not in a position to be too presumptive… especially since those super-delegates are under NO obligation to stay true to their word.

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