Wednesday, April 6, 2016

It's Time for the Gloves To Come Off, Hillary

There is an old axiom in sports: the longer it takes a team to clinch its division, the harder it gets. One, because the other teams begin to think they have a shot at catching them; but two, the leader starts looking over its shoulder and playing it too safe. In football, this is referred to as the prevent defense, and about the only thing it prevents is a win.

For most of this primary season Hillary Clinton has been the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. At one point she was up over 300 pledged delegates. With his win in Wisconsin, Bernie Sanders has managed to shave that lead down to 217. More than that, he's won six of the last seven states. That's called momentum, and right now the Sanders campaign has it and the Clinton campaign doesn't.

The Clinton campaign can point to its still rather impressive pledged delegate lead and say it's all but mathematically impossible for Sanders to catch them, and technically they're right. The fact is that the  soft spot on the schedule is over for Bernie. From here on in there are only two caucuses left on the calendar: Wyoming, which votes next and has only 14 delegates, and North Dakota, which votes on June 7th - the same day as California and New Jersey - and has only 18 delegates. All but two of the remaining primaries are closed. By all accounts, this race should be over long before then.

But the problem for Hillary is that, unlike the sports team analogy, we're not just talking about a team that might be feeling some pressure; we're talking about the growing perception by voters that, despite her obvious strengths, she can't close the deal. Like it or not, the attacks by Sanders on her character are beginning to gain traction. A once imposing lead in New York is now down to 10 points. In most states that would still be significant; for Clinton, it's anything but. Remember, she routed Sanders in Florida, Texas, Georgia and South Carolina. If she doesn't win by a large margin in the state that twice elected her as senator, even if she holds on to win the nomination, she will be perceived as a damaged and flawed candidate going into the general election. And if you think Bernie is hitting her hard, just wait'll Donald Trump gets a hold of her.

That's why it's imperative for Hillary Clinton to go all out and not just beat Sanders in New York, but make a bold statement and let him know that this wondrous journey that he and his supporters have been on is coming to an end. This is her backyard. To paraphrase Dorothy, "You're not in Vermont anymore, Bernie." Sanders has bloodied her over the last two weeks; it's time she returned the favor. It's time for her to take off the gloves and go full throttle on the senator from Vermont. Give him a taste of his own medicine.

Is there a risk? Of course there is; there's always a risk. For instance, by going on the offensive she could further alienate Sanders' supporters to such an extent that they might never come around in November. And that could be catastrophic. There's also the possibility that going gutter as Bernie has done the last few weeks could backfire on Hillary. It could make her look small and make him more sympathetic in the eyes of the still undecided voters. But the greater risk is the one she's running now. By dragging this out, she's giving Sanders more and more opportunities to take shots at her, thus making it all the more difficult for his supporters to give up the ghost.

Even now, the Sanders campaign is vowing to take the fight all the way to the convention in an attempt to convince the Super Delegates to switch over to them. The good news is that unless Bernie manages to tie Hillary in pledged delegates that is unlikely to happen, but why leave that possibility on the table. Ending it sooner rather than later avoids what could be a bitter convention and a divided party in the Fall. If Democrats need any reminders of what happens when they get into a pissing contest, all they have to do is go back to 1968 and 1980. A house divided on itself always falls.

It won't be easy to put away Bernie. Let's face it, for a man who probably didn't think he'd crack the 20 percent mark, he's come a long way. He doesn't care about the math and from what I've been reading on social media sites neither do his supporters. This is more than just a cause for them; it's a mission. His events look more like rock concerts than they do political rallies. Hillary's supporters may be more pragmatic and - fuck it, I'll say it - more realistic, but Bernie's supporters are practically gaga over him. They look upon him the same way Dead Heads used to look upon Jerry Garcia. They truly believe he is going to win this thing and the longer he stays alive, the longer that dream persists.

There is no way around it. Hillary Clinton has to take Bernie Sanders out. Enough pussyfooting. If it's a mud-slinging contest he wants, then it's a mud-slinging contest she should give him. Shit, she survived eleven grueling hours in front of a House Committee that was out to destroy her and instead ended up making itself look stupid. She can certainly handle this. For one thing, she'll be on her home turf so she'll have the home crowd advantage. For another, New York is no Wisconsin or Washington or Minnesota. Sanders may have been born in Brooklyn but that borough has changed quite a lot in the last sixty years. For instance, they don't use tokens to ride the RR line anymore. In fact, it's not even called the RR anymore; it's called the R. Got it, Bernie?

Look, let's face it, the Clintons are no wallflowers when it comes to political brawls. They know how to dish it as well as take it. Hillary certainly had no problem throwing the kitchen sink at Barack Obama in '08 in an attempt to win the nomination. This time, however, she may have to throw the whole damn kitchen at Bernie Sanders if she plans on moving forward.

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