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Geschichtswissenschlopff.

May 22, 2008, 3:59 pm

One of Josh Marshall’s “shrewdest readers” offers a contrarian reading of Hillary Clinton’s record. Shrewdest Reader reminds us that

After the 2000 election, she called for the abolition of the electoral college. “I believe strongly,” she said, “that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people.” She argued then that “the total votes cast for a person running for president in our country should determine the outcome.” Sound familiar?

Shrewdest Reader then says that when, contrariwise, the Clinton campaign agreed to cut Florida and Michigan out of the nominating process, she had at that time “lost her bearings” but now, SR argues, she has returned to true course, because “the dictates of her conscience and of political expedience have at last converged.” Clinton “is finally giving voice to the grievances that she’s long held back,” and on the belief that she “could not have lost a fair fight for the nomination,” this has changed from a mere campaign: “This really has become a moral crusade for her[.]” Clinton is a true majoritarian, momentarily distracted in the intraparty rules disputes of 2007 from her principles, now returned to her true and noble purpose.

<BREEET> Two fouls: (1) omitting relevant evidence and (2) bad counterfactualizing.

(1) Omitting relevant evidence. Yes, Clinton in the autumn of 2000 called for abolishing the electoral college. Far from seeming the unalloyed “dictates of her conscience,” this too looks like “political expedience.” Clinton made this call well before Bush v. Gore, early in November of 2000. At that time, crying up the illegitimacy of the electoral college served a clear political function, urging the Congress, the Court, and various mucks to award Gore the presidency based on his national popular vote majority, whatever the Florida count turned out to say.

Clinton may indeed believe we should amend the Constitution to satisfy her deep majoritarian principles, but she hasn’t said much about it since 2000; she must have had other priorities.

(2) Bad counterfactualizing: Clinton “could not have lost a fair fight for the nomination.” Not entirely clear whether it’s SR, or SR ventriloquizing Clinton, but either way, it’s a load of cobblers’. In “a fair fight,” both candidates would know the rules in advance, plan their campaigns accordingly, and abide by the rules as they went. Had the party determined that Florida and Michigan were to count, you can bet Obama would have campaigned there. Had the party held a snap one-day nationwide primary vote for the nomination, you can bet both candidates would have designed very different campaigns than they have. But it’s just foolish to say that because Obama and Clinton have campaigned as they have and achieved these results under these rules, that they would have done the same under different rules. This is counterfactualizing of the sort that merits the reply, “yes, and if a frog had wings it wouldn’t bump its ass a-hoppin’.”

Seriously, Marshall, I’m going to have to hope this isn’t your Shrewdest Reader’s shrewdest analysis.

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