Oval Office Thunderdome: Scorched Earth

The numbers were clear. She was cooked, done, finished. Prolonging things any longer, unnecessarily, had dark tinges to it. Were she and all her people suffering from mass delusions, common throughout history among generals and emperors who continue the fight to the last man after the wars are lost? In short, was this bunker mentality? Pray and wait for a miracle? Who knows? It could happen. Problem is, it never does. Defeat doesn’t magically change to victory because one wants it bad enough.

As far back as March, it didn’t require a whole lot of sophisticated math to realize she would have to win every remaining contest by vast margins to overcome the delegate deficit. She won most of the big states, and in a winner-take-all nominating system, like the other party has, she would be the nominee. Such is life. Twist the rules enough, and anyone can be made a winner. It’s the rules that are in place that matter, because the endgame wasn’t about perception, framing, late surges or changed minds. Once she was in the hole, it was about actual, tangible results, within the bounds of the rules. Yet, it is the rules that have been the funny thing about democracy of late. Democracy should be a simple thing: most votes win. But the party made a huge mistake last year when they snubbed Michigan and Florida. They removed the legitimacy of those contests, then when things got close, came the clamor.

And what was she fighting for? Honor, legitimacy, equal representation for all voters? Such high and lofty aspirations would be commendable, but she was fighting for nothing but a tainted claim. In Michigan, especially, where voters saw no sign of five of the party’s candidates on a ballot that wouldn’t be counted anyway, and threw forty percent of their votes to no one. That’s 230,000 votes for none of the above after the names were withdrawn. The United Nations wouldn’t certify those results. Fighting and clawing, because she won there and in Florida, not fighting for the people who punched the cards and pulled the levers, but fighting for herself. She adds those tainted totals to her tally, and who knows who is the nominee? That was the point — to sow doubt.

She attacked him every way she could, even shamefully invoking the ghosts of the southern strategy. The bridges she burned on the way to defeat showed she deserved to lose. The further things went on, the more unhinged she and everyone around her became. We saw, and still see, the spectacle of a white woman claiming a black man had some sort of sexist advantage, never mentioning the deeply ingrained, sometimes deathly hostile racism that still exists in this country — a burden she never had to face. In a contest of collective hardships in America, no one can compete with a black man. Turning her candidacy into an echo chamber of supposed persecution would have had more resonance against every other major party candidate in history, but not this year.

The peak of desperation were not the cries of foul, the identity politics, or the wails and protests from her people as the national party apportioned the disputed Michigan and Florida delegates. It was the conference call — the sit-down with newspaper editors when she raised the possibility of assassination as a reason to stay in the race. What a person believes she meant is in direct proportion to one’s feelings towards her. The words themselves, however, are unmistakable. Anything could happen. Anything. Including death, being killed, because of his race. Even if he is destined to live another fifty years, the message was clear: it could happen, it’s less likely to happen to her, so the votes don’t matter. Add everything up, all the times she said she was more electable, and what it boils down to for her, how bad she wants the job, is planting a seed that if everything else isn’t enough, she’s more survivable. But then, last night, he won.

Last night the race ended. He gave a rousing victory declaration and a magnanimous nod to her, and she responded by not conceding. The wails and protests still go on, supporters twisting round and round trying to deny a decision everyone knows has been made. The opportunity for a graceful exit, a chance to put the gracelessness of her ambition in the past was squandered, and now she and her people, who would be running the country if they had their way, seem as locked into a world of fantasy as the people they want to replace. The clamor, the biting and clawing, the savagery, every nasty instance where they behaved as if a birthright were being denied by an upstart negro from the wards of Chicago makes it clear she needed to lose. The pressure rose and rose and the destruction of the last few months was the response. There is no hope in that. Doing anything to win is not a virtue, it is a character flaw. Democracy worked because she is soon to walk away, not of her choosing, but ours.