UPDATED: Senator Hillary Clinton is still getting very high poll ratings–especially among minority voters which make up majorities or pluralities of the Democratic vote in many states, like, say South Carolina. In irony, she would be unbeatable if the Democratic primaries were held today in the Southern states; but, whether she would win any Southern red state in a general election is questionable. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the only Democrat who can energize the Republican base–to vote against her.

If her main concern is the general election contest, that is winning the middle and swing voters, then she (and her lead live-in political strategist) may be considering a “Sister Souljah” moment, with the symbolic target this time being anti-war left bloggers. An SS moment refers to the time in 1992 when Bill Clinton criticized the black, female rap artist for sounding like “David Duke” for a comment she made about “why not have a week and kill white people?” (Which she said was taken out of context). The political implication was that Clinton came off as a moderate Democrat not beholden to an “extremist” of the left and thus was more acceptable to socio-cultural moderates and conservatives.

Senator Clinton is producing many variations of such counter-typing [1] of herself, including co-introducing in the Senate a bill to make flag-burning illegal. Liberal blogger Kos described the move as follows: “She’s continuing to brush up on her ‘moderate’ cred for her presidential run.”

As posted here and here, many leftbloggers are angry with Hillary for what they perceive as a series of unwarranted right-turns.

But in politics and war, people judge you by your friends and your enemies. The idea behind the SS moment strategy was to pick an enemy who can get you more friends. John Cole of Balloonjuice argues “most politicians would pay to have this kind of opposition.”

It might be tempting–if the Clinton team is confident their “base” numbers are solid–to “dis” a leftblog, preferably one that has made some heated statement about the Iraq war that is beyond the pale of mainstream American public opinion.

The danger is that, in mass communication terms, this is not 1992. Sister Souljah could only complain to the big media and her friends (by phone). Or write a song. Blogs have their own instant platforms, outreach and weaponry.

[1] Counter-typing is when a politician offers up imagery, symbolism, and words that counter an established negative prejudice that an audience might have. So, a female Democratic candidate would send campaign messages that suggest her being “strong on defense” and “tough on crime.” A male Republican candidate might try to appear “compassionate” and caring.” (Sound familar?)

See: D. D. Perlmutter & G. Golan. “Counter-Imaging: Myth-Making and Americanization in Israeli Labor Party Campaign Ads, 2003.” Visual Communication, 4(3): 304-332. (2005).

Originally posted January 3, 2006 at PolicyByBlog

One Comment

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    Original Reader Comments (3)

    What’s interesting here are two points which always get overlooked in discussing HRC’s viability for the nomination and the presidency:

    1. Charting a centrist course will do nothing to gain her Red State voters in 2008. They are frozen in their position, and really unmoveable when it comes to her. It’s a fool’s errand.

    2. What she needs to do to win the primaries is convince skeptical dems that she can win in November. Is she electable? That’s her challenge. The best argument against her within the party goes like this: “Senator, we admire your work, and your husband will always have a place in our hearts. You are doing a great job as Senator from NY. But please excuse us while we nominate someone who can actually get the White House back.”
    January 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJustwin B. Aby

    Good points. Some thoughts:
    –Let’s not forget how high Dean’s numbers were in December 2003.
    –There was a saying in Iowa in post-caucus 2004: “Dated Dean; Married Kerry.”
    –Hillary Clinton is the only candidate right now who can rally the Republican base!
    January 3, 2006 | Registered Commenterdavid.d.perlmutter

    As I see it, Hilary Clinton is the only candidate the democrats seem to be “putting out there” as of now to test the waters. Do I believe that she could win the democratic nomination? Yes, I think that is a serious possibility. Democrats still, to this day, hold Bill Clinton as their most valued leader despite the fact that he has not held public office in over five years. Most relate Hilary with Bill and consider them to have the same ideals and beliefs. They think that Hilary, in most ways will be a second Bill. So will she get the Democratic nomination? If no other contender materializes, and materializes soon, then I don’t see how she couldn’t. the big question is really can she win the national election, swing the red states blue? On that question, however, I believe the answer to be no.
    January 24, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterredelephantgirl123

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