Paul Krugman in today's NYT continues his refinement of a political argument (as distinct from an economic one) in a very perspicuous column; whether one accepts all of his premises or not, the point is very clear. Real change will require leaders who are willing to confront the vested interests in the status quo. Krugman goes on to say that Edwards looks better than Obama when viewed in this light. That may be so (I guess I do agree with Krugman on both the general and the specific point in fact), but it got me thinking about Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton has no visible advocates in the "chattering classes" media. The liberal media (Chris Matthews/MSNBC, The Nation, NPR, the cybersphere) disdain her at best, and do their best to test her weaknesses at every opportunity. No self-respecting bohemian sort or bourgeois intellectual would openly back her. There are "pundits" who allow of their support of Giuliani, or Obama, or Huckabee or Edwards, but not a Hillary-advocate is to be heard. Meanwhile on the right it is as it has ever been: Hillary Clinton is Stalin, a blood-sucking vagina dentata or whatever they call it, a liar, a thief, the Mafia. But that of course is exactly the political climate in which the Clintons have always lived. And they have led and through the 90s the Clintons accomplished the third Democratic regime of the second half of the 20th century (after JFK/LBJ, and Jimmy Carter). And today Hillary Clinton, after weeks of late-campaign tightening-up erosion at the polls, is still, folks, in the lead. She leads without the backing of the media, just like the Clintons always have done.
And that's what was striking me reading Krugman's column. Obama, Krugman's argument goes, is too naive in his advocacy of conciliation (a la Woodrow Wilson and Carter?), while Edwards recognizes that progress will require some political contest to determine whose interests will prevail over whom. This dovetails with a theme of this blog, that a Clinton victory is important because, among other things, that would be a symbolic defeat for the movement conservatives, and they are the ones who need to be defeated for liberal government to move forward. But I think that Clinton is the best alternative here. The Clintons use the system to fight the battle, the way the Republicans do. The resolve is there at the bottom of things.
And there's a "silent majority" effect here too. We're not hearing from Clinton supporters in the media, but they are the largest plurality of voters among likely Democratic voters than any other candidate has of voters in their party. But then there's another item of old news: people always underestimate the Clintons.