Irrational Hillary Diehards

Hillary Clinton ran an excellent campaign during the primary season, and if the structure of the primaries had been different, she might have been the nominee. She has handled herself with class and grace since the defeat, quickly reading the writing on the wall, apparently having an easier time coping with reality than her husband. Yesterday she met with Barack Obama in Unity, New Hampshire — a place where they split the vote evenly during the New Hampshire primary — to reinforce the idea that they are working together to defeat Barack Obama.

What I find more interesting are the “Hillary Cultists” out there, almost psychotic in their rabid hatred of Barack Obama (and his supporters) determined to claim some kind of victimhood over their candidate’s loss. You can find their rants at “the Confluence,” which sounds like they are trying hard to convince themselves they are right, or “no quarter,” a place where the man who gave us the Michelle Obama video rumor continues to try to fly rumor whispers about Rezko, Obama’s birth certificate, or probably soon, his association with Martians. And though he has been shown to be wrong so often, the true believers who want to believe that Obama will somehow disappear keep coming back. Finally there is a truly bizarre site, “Hillary is 44,” with a photo of Hillary which appears to be from back when she was 44 years old. These folk wear their hatred of Obama on their sleeves as they whine about how they’re victims to the sexism of the Democratic party. Lastly, there is “Hillbuzz,” which seems to be obsessed with with the Chicago gay pride parade (huh?)

What drives these people? To be sure, if Hillary had won and Obama had lost I would probably be posting about Obama diehards, who would be complaining of racism, cronyism, and inside party big wig deals. They would be perhaps even more evident on the web, given that Obama’s supporters tend to be more active in the blogosphere and web discussion groups. This isn’t about Clinton or anything particular about her supporters, it’s about that subset of supporters in both campaigns who can’t let go of their emotion and instead become dogmatic, irrational, and angry.

Moreover, this does not include everyone who doesn’t switch support from Clinton to Obama. Many people aren’t driven by ideology and just go by who they identify with more. Some who liked Clinton just prefer McCain to Obama. Some have decided that they want to support Nader. That’s fine. I’m talking about that small minority who hold on to their bitterness and anger, turn it into rage against Obama and his supporters, and despite claiming to be life long Democrats or progressive/liberals have decided they prefer McCain to Obama. I mean those people who have fallen into a state that brings to mind the phrase the ‘cult of personality,’ where they are so focused on the person they identify with that the issues and larger picture becomes secondary. They truly believe the DNC conspired against Clinton, that this is unfair, and that they have been mistreated. It is not a rational belief.

The most bizarre argument they make is that Roe v. Wade doesn’t matter because the Court already has the votes to overturn it. That’s doubtful, but if that were true that would be all the more reason to take that issue seriously, you would think they’d want a President who could change that balance, or at least prevent it from getting even worse. But they are definitely not thinking rationally, it’s raw emotion.

Part of this is par for the course in politics. Campaigns are emotional, and people naturally become very intensely bound up in their candidate, especially if they are contributing money, time and effort on her behalf. It’s not easy to break that; it’s not easy to go from seeing the opponent and bad, someone who must be defeated, to accepting that the game is over and while close, your person lost. People want to blame the loss on nefarious elements, people in our culture embrace a victim mentality.

Most pundits believe that despite it’s close and hard fought nature, the Clinton-Obama fight was relatively mild; both held back because they knew that going negative would hurt them in the eyes of the Democratic electorate. Yet in the emotion of a campaign, supporters remember those moments when there was something offensive said, or an attack that seemed unfair. They remember process questions they lost, things that maybe should have been done differently. They fixate on these, go over them in their minds until they become so important that they construct a barrier that makes it impossible to let go. Both sides do it, but the winner can more easily let go since they have the prize; those on the losing side find it difficult.

On top of that, websites and discussion groups allow supporters who don’t want to let go of the emotion and accept that they lost to reinforce each others’ sense of victimization and unfairness. They bolster each others’ denial. And because of their bitterness, they draw angry comments from the other side, insults from Obama supporters which serve only to reinforce their sense of righteousness and victimhood. In fact, I suspect a lot of Republicans are playing this game pretending to be Hillary or Obama supporters in order to try to keep bitterness alive.

So the result is a small cadre of true believers, unable to distinguish reality from their emotional connection to an individual, driven to hate the other side and the other candidate. They feel self-righteous, believe that they see better the reality than do others, become more like cultists than activists. And if they are active on those websites, they’ll start feeling a groupthink loyalty to other like minded folk, and thus push aside any temptation to rethink their position. It becomes more jihad than political campaign.

The sad thing is that if Barack Obama wins, they will not enjoy the Democratic victory. While most Democrats would feel that this would clear away the wounds of the 2000 election, and create a chance at a real Democratic majority (since the Democrats are almost certain to gain in the House and Senate), the Hillary diehards will feel angry and impotent. They will be those few Americans who felt cheated in both 2000 and 2008, unable to join their fellow progressives and Democrats in celebration. If Obama loses, they’ll have a Pyhrric victory. It’ll be the kind of petty “I’m glad something bad happened to someone I don’t like” satisfaction, even while watching their policy preferences become less likely to be achieved.

For their sake, one hopes that the group of Hillary diehards slowly wake up to reality, and the emotion of the fall campaign starts pushing out the residual emotion of the spring campaign.

  1. #1 by Ted on June 28, 2008 - 00:26

    Now that we’re beyond Hillary, we can look forward to the first female VP, Sarah Palin, to become the first female President of the United States in 4 years!

  2. #2 by scotterb on June 28, 2008 - 00:42

    You don’t think McCain can last eight if elected? I guess that would make him 80. I’d think Rice would be a better VP choice.

  3. #3 by Grace on June 28, 2008 - 02:56

    There isn’t anything wrong with people who continue to passionately support Hillary Clinton. No different than people who have a great reverence for JFK, or Tim Russert. People can feel affection and allegiance to others without your negative labels put upon them.

    Callinf us “Hillary cultists” because we would love for a miracle to happen so she could be our nominee.

    How dare you put people down who have made a commitment to someone in this process and are still committed.

    Yours is a cheap shot at American people having their own opinions. gw.

  4. #4 by scotterb on June 28, 2008 - 03:27

    Grace, I like Hillary. I think she is a great American, I respect her more than I respect her husband. But she lost a close contest. It’s time to move on and let go. After all, Hillary herself has embraced Obama and supports him! I’m more with her at this point than you are!

  5. #5 by Ted on June 28, 2008 - 09:38

    scotterb, Rice is way off the radar screen whereas Palin essentially is the frontrunner to be picked by McCain.

  6. #6 by scotterb on June 28, 2008 - 11:52

    Rice is off the radar screen? Shame, she’d be a good choice. Personally, I think McCain should look at Olympia Snowe…Arizona and Maine, good geographical balance. But she’s even farther off the radar screen.

  7. #7 by xax on August 8, 2008 - 21:38

    Dude, we’ve let go of the emotion, but apparently you guys haven’t.

    I’m still amazed that we can make you so upset. Do you want to cry about it? You can lean on my shoulder.

    Now here’s the unfortunate truth: Not everyone’s going to love Obama. Not everyone’s going to vote for him. And whatever reasons they have are their reasons. You can’t do anything about that. If you are so confident in your candidate, you shouldn’t have to worry about that.

    And just for clarification, just because Hillary supports Obama, doesn’t mean her supporters have to. I don’t like Obama, never did and never will. I supported Hillary because I had to choose between the Dem candidates. She lost, he won and I STILL don’t like Obama. I don’t plan on voting for him. Simple. This is what happens when you live and a society where people are free to decide for themselves.

  8. #8 by Scott Erb on August 9, 2008 - 02:05

    xax: methinks thou doth protest too much!

    Your choice is Obama or McCain. It’s not love, it’s just a choice on who is more likely to have policies that will be good for this country. I think some people are so caught up on the personalities and the “who” that they ignore the policies and the long term implications. The anti-Obama rhetoric is a bit cult like. I find it interesting, and a telling aspect of American politics these days, left and right.

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