The Monkey Trap and Hillary Clinton’s Rush to Defeat

Some African tribes have devised an ingenious method of capturing monkeys. They cut a small hole in a coconut, large enough for a monkey’s hand but too small for a monkey’s fist. They then put a few peanuts inside the coconut. When the monkey reaches inside and grabs the peanuts, it is unable to extract its hand.

The monkey is then faced with two choices: let go of the bait and go free or hold on to the bait and be captured. Escaping with the bait is not an option. African monkeys, determined and single-minded critters that they are, usually hold-on until captured.

Hillary Clinton, it seems, is consumed with a monkey-like determination to become the 44th President of the United States, and with that consuming objective in mind, she fails to perceive the context and the likely consequences of her behavior. She has essentially two options: hang on to her determination to win the nomination by any and all means necessary, which, as I will explain below, will almost certainly result in the election of John McCain, or let go of her personal ambition and join a united effort to elect a Democratic President in November. Winning both the nomination and the general election is apparently out of the question.

Most objective observers of the campaign agree that Barack Obama has a near-mathematical lock on the nomination, provided the contest continues according to the party’s rules. In compliance with a signed agreement by both candidates, the unauthorized and uncontested Michigan and Florida primaries are out of play. Any likely compromise resolution of the Michigan and Florida controversies will be of negligible advantage to either side. Obama’s 150 pledged delegate lead can only be overcome by unobtainable two to one Clinton majorities in all the remaining primaries followed by the support of a majority of the super delegates.

Clinton can play fair, or she can play dirty. If she plays fair by following the rules and refraining from smear tactics, she will surely lose the nomination. Given Barack Obama’s unassailable lead among the pledged delegates, it is clear that the super-delegates will not overturn the people’s will as expressed in the primaries and the caucuses. Nancy Pelosi, who leads more than two-hundred super-delegates, has recently announced as much.

So if Clinton is to be nominated, she must overturn rules that she has agreed to, persuade most of the super-delegates to ignore the will of the voters and caucus participants, and to accomplish all this she must diminish Obama’s stature through negative campaigning. Because such tactics also devastate the public opinion of her (not very high to begin with), those same tactics employed to gain the nomination will almost certainly deprive her of the presidency in the general election.

In sum, this is Hillary’s dilemma: Hold on to the bait, and both Clinton and the Democrats lose. Let go of the bait, and Obama wins. Hillary Clinton’s victory in November is not an option.

Clinton began her campaign with the pollsters projecting that about half of the voting population would not vote for her under any circumstances. So to win the presidency, she must somehow reverse a widespread negative public perception of her. And what is this perception? Among other things, that she is shrill, self-serving, unprincipled, manipulative, and untrustworthy. And yet to win the nomination, how must she behave, and thus appear to the public, if she is to overcome Obama’s commanding advantage? She must be, as she now appears to be, shrill, self-serving, unprincipled, manipulative and untrustworthy. In short, in order to win the nomination, she must behave in a manner that will validate a public opinion of her that will surely deprive her of victory in the general election.

And even if her negative campaign against Obama, both overt and covert, fails to capture the nomination, it might well sufficiently damage Obama’s stature to deprive him, along with numerous Democratic Congressional candidates, of success in November. Hence Obama’s guilt by association with Pastor Jeremiah White, and her favoring of McCain’s “experience” over Obama’s “speech-making.” Justly or not, there is a suspicion spreading among rank-and-file Democrats that Hillary’s attitude is “it must be me, or nobody!” Meanwhile, as this bitter rivalry continues we can see a fracturing of the party: Support Clinton? “You’re a racist.” Support Obama? “You’re a sexist.” It’s nonsense, of course. Most of Clinton’s supporters are not racists, and most Obamaphiles have no objection to a woman president; just not that woman. It’s all nonsense, but mischievously divisive nonetheless.

Then there is the issue of “playing by the rules.” Early in the campaign, Clinton, along with the other candidates, signed a statement agreeing not to recognize the delegates of, or to campaign in, the rule-defying states of Michigan and Florida. Now that she desperately needs these votes, she is ignoring her agreement and is demanding as her own the delegates in Michigan, where she was the only candidate on the ballot, and in Florida where Obama, by agreement, did not appear. Having lost in the Texas delegate count, she is attempting to overturn this result in the courts, perchance to be eventually bailed out by the Supreme Court, as was George Bush.

Not content to defy these party rules, she now proposes her own rules. For example, because the “caucus delegates,” have been chosen by an allegedly “less democratic process,” they should not be regarded as equal to “primary delegates.” It just happens that Obama has been more successful in caucuses than in primaries. And now we are told by the Clinton campaign that the Pennsylvania primary should be treated as decisive. Fortunately, not many Democrats seem to be buying that one.

After seven years of Bush/Cheney violations of treaties and international law, of trashing the Constitution, of defying Congressional subpoenas, and of nullifying acts of Congress with signing statements, it is not likely that the American public will have much stomach for another President that regards herself as unbound by rules or, by implication, by laws.

The Democratic Party is caught in the grips of a tragedy, in the classical sense, described by Alfred North Whitehead as “the solemnity of the remorseless working of things” which rational agents can see at work but are helpless to intervene and avert. Historical examples include the drift of the European powers into the First World War, the uncontrolled growth of world population, and the onset of catastrophic climate change. Now a prospective candidate of one of the major parties, consumed by personal ambition, is set upon a course that might well cripple the party and destroy its otherwise excellent prospects of success in the presidential election.

Or possibly not. But in order to put the brakes on this potential train-wreck, the Democratic party elders, which is to say the super-delegates, must take the initiative and intervene. And sadly, the Congressional members among the Democratic super-delegates have not distinguished themselves through their initiatives and interventions against the Bush/Cheney crime syndicate.

What the supers might do, however much I despair of hope that they will, is announce to both candidates: “Either this orgy of party self-immolation and this violation of party rules ends now, or else we will end it forthwith.” They can do so if a sufficient number of the super-delegates endorse the innocent candidate to put that candidate’s total “over the top.”

Failing that, or perchance in addition, the rank and file Democratic voters must voice their displeasure, loud and clear, at the behavior of Hillary Clinton and her campaign.

Only then might Hillary Clinton lose her grip on the prize that she has already lost and cannot regain: The Presidency of the United States.

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin and is the co-editor of The Crisis Papers. His e-mail is: Read other articles by Ernest, or visit Ernest's website.

25 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on March 20th, 2008 at 7:57am #

    Good God! Would anybody other than an American describe an African people as a “tribe” in 2007?

  2. corylus said on March 20th, 2008 at 9:02am #

    CLINTOBAMACAIN — It numbs the American mind.

  3. Kyle said on March 20th, 2008 at 10:42am #

    I have no idea why this writer feels the need to join in trashing Hillary Clinton. If he wants to do that, trash Obama as well. They’re too of a kind and Dissident Voice readers aren’t mindless ‘monkeys’ looking to some troll author to tell us how to vote. I am OUTRAGED by the left’s refusal to call out the corporatist Barack Obama whose comments on Iran yesterday were outrageous. I come to Dissident Voice because it’s not Cult of Bambi. I can go elsewhere if this is the sort of crap I can expect. I don’t need to be insulted. I’ll vote Cynthia or Ralph and feel good about myself. Take your LIES about THE GREAT OBAMA to another outlet. I understand The Nation publishes crap like this every hour on the hour so try them.

  4. John Wilkinson said on March 20th, 2008 at 12:12pm #

    “I come to Dissident Voice because it’s not Cult of Bambi.”

    But it is a cult of Ralph. And I hate to wake you up, but there are plenty of lies here (in DV) too — on all the subjects, just like in all the other media, left or right. You can hardly open an article, any article, without lies and distortions spilling out like so many cockroaches. Especially articles lionizing Ralph. Effing personality cult of lost people. It’s all about Ralph, isn’t it, this whole universe is centered on Ralph, the savior. It’s laughable how deluded, naive and self righteous some people are. I guess someone who doesn’t bow before the Ralph god or chant the Ralph mindless chants cannot post an article here — notwithstanding it’s all crap anyhow.

    He’s telling us how to vote, but you aren’t, with your out-of-place Ralph worship?

    And tribe is now a politically incorrect word, notwithstanding its origin and continued use in antropology (a science, something you don’t understand), describing an organization unit of a people? Let’s redact the whole effing dictionary, we’ve solved all the other problems of the world. That pretty much describes how deluded and out of touch with reality you “progressives” are, when that is the focus of your discourse — if someone used a forbidden word, just like in the middle ages you were dropped in boiling oil for possession of a forbidden book. Effing dark ages all over again!!!

  5. John Wilkinson said on March 20th, 2008 at 12:17pm #

    “They’re too of a kind”.

    Proves my point above. Even spelling 101 is out of reach………

  6. Arch Stanton said on March 20th, 2008 at 12:57pm #

    Okay, John, I’ll bite. By all means provide numerous examples and copious documentation of the alleged lies posted on this site. Put your research where your pompous blowhard keyboard is.

  7. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 20th, 2008 at 3:42pm #

    Well, I beg to differ. In my opinion, the ONLY way McCain can win the presidency in November is for leftists to remain divided and bickering over priorities, instead of uniting behind the one big issue – Out of Iraq, Yesterday. Which is to say, of course, that leftists could make a difference, even were Hilarious to behave monkey-like. Regrettably, whether my reading of the situation or Partridge’s is correct is not likely to be tested – seeing as how every day it appears less likely that persons opposed to both Obama and Clinton will get their shit together, around peace, before the Democratic convention.

  8. Deadbeat said on March 20th, 2008 at 3:59pm #

    By all means provide numerous examples and copious documentation of the alleged lies posted on this site. Put your research where your pompous blowhard keyboard is.

    Read the articles where writers have described the War in Iraq as “War for Oil”. There has been many distortion and obfuscation Zionist role in the War. Somehow these writers all ignore PNAC and their influence is establishing U.S. policies.

  9. Deadbeat said on March 20th, 2008 at 4:34pm #

    By all means provide numerous examples and copious documentation of the alleged lies posted on this site. Put your research where your pompous blowhard keyboard is.

    I would suggest reading the articles posted on DV from writers promoting the War in Iraq as “War for Oil”. There have been many distortions and obfuscations of the role of Zionism’s influence and goals on the war. Somehow these writers choose to ignore PNAC and the influence of its writers, funders, and promoters in the establishment of U.S. foreign policies.

    The goal of these writers are to persuade readers that the neo-conservative project is solely about profit and partially about militarism and deliberately downplay, obfuscate and outright ignore or deny that Zionism is a problem within the U.S. At best they’ll condemn Israeli policies but that assumes that Zionism is solely an Israeli problem and not an American one.

    Those writers have been given a forum here on DV as they should. Their perspectives should not be suppressed. However DV has also and thankfully published the writings of James Petras who have exposed the tactics of this left-wing attempt to deflect Zionism as an internal problem, the main reason for the demobilization of the anti-war movement, and the deleterious outcomes that have emerged due to the left’s failure to confront Zionism.

    The failure of the left to confront this issue created the political vacuum that is temporarily being filled by Obama with his message of “change” and “unity”. He has tapped into the public’s desire to get rid of the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton cycle.

    Clearly Obama has many negatives on the other hand he is the lesser of two evils (among McCain & Clinton). Unfortunately the empty attacks from the left upon Obama are done without any context to the left’s own failures. In fact these attacks especially coming from such “leftist” who have played a role in obfuscating and denying Zionism lack credibility and akin to attacks upon his supporters and will only further alienate the left.

    The best scenario for the left right now is for Clinton to win the Democratic nomination. At least this time the left cannot be scapegoated like it was with Nader in 2000. The disappointment among Obama supporters may be such that they will look for alternatives and may turn to Nader or McKinney.

    But such an outcome IMO is defeatist. Also despite the rhetoric of building from the ground up, the “left” is not prepared to build a movement. The best evidence of that came in 2003-2004 and the left self-destructed. With such fracturing, disorganization, and dishonesty it will a very long time before there is any real cohesion on the left.

  10. hp said on March 20th, 2008 at 5:04pm #

    I’m voting for Diebold….whoops… I mean… well, you know what I mean.

  11. Geoffk said on March 20th, 2008 at 6:58pm #

    On the other hand, wouldn’t the Democratic party finally dying open up the chance of a new more (or at all) leftist party emerging?

  12. Max Shields said on March 21st, 2008 at 7:11am #

    Deadbeat do you think Bush and Cheney are really zionists or for that matter neocons? Bush didn’t even know what a neocon was when he took office.

    Are there ties and connections between necons and zionists? It certainly appears there are. But do they really speak for one another? I think there’s a confluence (some convenient, some not), but I really think the relationship is one of leveraging and here, I think of the old cartoon of the rat in the Skinner box, pulling the lever and a pellet of food drops, with the caption from the rat: ” I’ve got this guy trained every time I pull this lever he feeds me.” Who’s the real subject?

  13. LanceThruster said on March 21st, 2008 at 10:47am #

    Sen. Obama troubles the Zionists greatly. That, to/two/too me, is a good sign. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Nader can be seen as trying to hip check the one person who could realistically be in a position to alter the AIPAC dynamic.

  14. John Wilkinson said on March 21st, 2008 at 10:53am #

    In the 6th century AD, Slavic TRIBES (white people) migrated to the Balkan peninsula. During the Roman times, there were numerous Roman military campaigns against the various German TRIBES (white people) and British TRIBES (white people). Also, these TRIBES (e.g., the German ones) fought against each other. The largest German TRIBE were the Visigoths, which could have numbered 100,000 people. The above mentioned were by no means the only TRIBES in Europe.

    Only in America do people wear their ignorance on their sleeves, as a badge of honor. In Europe, people don’t open their mouths until they are SURE they know what they are talking about, for fear of SEVERE ridicule at their ignorance, but not here. The whole country is based on ignorance and operated on ignorance. Especially you “progressives” hysterically revel in your ignorance, led by the pied pipers like Ralph, who handily and easily exploit it.

    Anyone who thinks that a multimillionaire like Ralph, who besides uses lies and demagoguery (that’s how he got rich), would be looking out for interests of common folk, is a sucker of the first order.

    Just an example, because of Ralph and people like him, we are now burning vast, humongous, massive quantities of natural gas to generate electricity (20% of electric power in the US comes from natural gas). This is done through highly inefficient peaking generators, because Ralph and his ilk sabotaged building of base generating units using other fuels. Natural gas, the fuel that is uniquely suited for cooking and heating our homes. As a result, the price of this commodity is skyrocketing (but you haven’t seen nothing yet) and the available reserves are dwindling.

    The day of reckoning, where you’ll be freezing your ass in the winter, while being made destitute by utility bills, is not far off. But who cares, Ralph made his millions, and you lemmings will follow him off the cliff –except he won’t jump, he’s taken care of, you see.

    They are all multimillionaires, not to be trusted, I am just pointing this out in the face of your undying love for Ralph.

  15. John Wilkinson said on March 21st, 2008 at 11:34am #

    “Okay, John, I’ll bite. By all means provide numerous examples and copious documentation of the alleged lies posted on this site. Put your research where your pompous blowhard keyboard is.”

    These are just some of the articles in which I’ve recently posted comments:

    In this one, I post several comments. My last one is line by line analysis of the piece. Falsehoods galore. You see, I happen to be from the area and have lived the history.

    In this piece, Mr. Blum invites me and other to email him PRIVATELY with our comments (where he could easily blow us off). The public forum is “inconvenient” for him. Spreading the truth to the masses doesn’t matter.

    I’ve also read how getting rid of health insurance companies will solve ALL our health problems, when my OWN experience tells me it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    I’ve read in these and similar pages how one atom of plutonium will kill you, how bats are affected by the radar systems at the US-Mexico border, etc., etc., etc. The land of the ignorant.

    Anyone who would even post a comment like the above, is totally unaware of the way things are.

  16. Betty Byers said on March 21st, 2008 at 11:42am #

    You men—-are afraid of a woman President?????? Especially, this one, who is Intelligent and powerful. She is the only one running who can bring this country out of this disaster. Can you just see Obama as President? No experience, would cringe if we had another 911, and McCain, well he just wants war, and not very intelligent or expeienced.

  17. Arch Stanton said on March 21st, 2008 at 12:52pm #

    Alas my challenge goes unmet. The subsequent responses have a nice ring to them though. How about Voldemort, General Zod or Cthulhu for president? Why vote for the Lesser of two evils?

  18. Max Shields said on March 21st, 2008 at 1:14pm #


    You are not alone in your willingness to believe in the rhetoric of Obama as a sign of something more….But I don’t know what indication or proof you have that Zionists are greatly troubled by Obama. Can you elucidate?

  19. Deadbeat said on March 21st, 2008 at 2:53pm #

    Deadbeat do you think Bush and Cheney are really zionists or for that matter neocons? Bush didn’t even know what a neocon was when he took office.

    I recall reading somewhere that Bush was extremely dismissive of Wolfowitz and Feith who were pushing their PNAC initiatives prior to 9-11. It was after 9-11 that Bush became a neo-con. I’m not sure about Chaney’s conversion. My guess is that Bush & Chaney were opportunists who used 9-11 to achieve “business” (in the case of Chaney) and “religious” (in the case of Bush) goals. What ever their reasons, both certainly adopted the neo-con agenda hook, line, and sinker after 9-11.

    Let’s take McCain as another example. I would not consider McCain a neo-con. McCain IMO is clearly a militarist. But with no Cold War he needs an enemy. Hence McCain’s alliance with Lieberman a neo-con. Together Lieberman provides McCain with an enemy and Lieberman get the militarism he seeks to advance Zionism.

    The same holds true for Hillary and Bill Clinton. Both are neo-cons only that they are Democrats.

    Obama is kind of scary IMO primarily because the neo-cons within the Democratic party are not convinced of his “fealty” to Israel. Obama want dialog among allies and enemies. On the other hand all roads to the Presidency leads through AIPAC.

    Are there ties and connections between necons and zionists? It certainly appears there are. But do they really speak for one another? I think there’s a confluence (some convenient, some not), but I really think the relationship is one of leveraging and here, I think of the old cartoon of the rat in the Skinner box, pulling the lever and a pellet of food drops, with the caption from the rat: ” I’ve got this guy trained every time I pull this lever he feeds me.” Who’s the real subject?

    Max, neo-conservatism is essentially reaction the leftward drift of Liberalism since Liberalism is essentially a conservative ideology.
    Leo Strauss who is considered the “father” of neo-conservatism refers to a neo-con as a “liberal mugged by reality”. Zionism has been a key component of neo-conservatism since its origins.

    Neo-conservatism as defined by liberal today as a marriage of militarism and neoliberalism with the downplaying of its tradition Zionism. All of these “isms” are fluid. I think along the way what may have been an expression of support for Zionism picked up some adherent of the neoliberalism to bolster financial support and militarism to extend hegemonic aims. But neo-conservatism today seem to have merged Zionism, militarism and corporatism into a nice neat package.

  20. Deadbeat said on March 21st, 2008 at 2:57pm #

    But I don’t know what indication or proof you have that Zionists are greatly troubled by Obama. Can you elucidate?

    Jewish Advocates Demand that Obama Show ‘Fealty to Israel

  21. Max Shields said on March 21st, 2008 at 3:18pm #

    Ok, ok ok Obama is a leftist and he’s ready to side with the Palestinians, ok ok ok…goes to show you…but does Crown the billionaire who supports Obama with thousands of campaign funds from his General Dynamics warmachine know that…perhaps the hundreds of thousands he’s given to Obama should be re-considered…leftist commie that Obama is. Ok ok ok…irrefutable proof…Obama is a radical hippy dippy lefty with ties to the Maoist, no make that Neo Marxists anti-imperialist, pro-Palestinian and let’s not forget Hezbollah….ok ok it’s true true…Castro has just announced he supports Obama…and now here comes Venezuela’s own Hugo Chavez…but wait the Republicans for Obama are hear a different story…hold the presses, Obama is a new kind of Maoist, a brand new Neo, neo, neo, whatever….

  22. Max Shields said on March 21st, 2008 at 7:02pm #

    Deadbeat thanks for trying to explain the unexplainable. I have a hard time connecting all that mulla that Obama and Hillary get from the most powerful corporatist in the world and think abou them in terms of isms.

    At the end of Bobby Kennedy’s life there was a perpetual pain in his face as he touched the young and poor. That’s missing now. That is also not explainable but is very real and seems to matter a whole lot more than the blending of isms.

  23. Mike McNiven said on March 22nd, 2008 at 3:45pm #

    Ernest, you are not being earnest here! It is not about “mathematics”, of which, apparently, you only know calculators, here is why:

  24. Giorgio said on March 22nd, 2008 at 7:46pm #

    Jesus Christ!
    All this long-winded palaver and not a word about Ron Paul?
    He’s the only one with the guts to end the war, restore the US economy, and tell the zionists to back off and show the neocons the way where to jump off, and yet no mention of him!?


    As they say: ‘people deserve the government they’ve got!’
    So guys enjoy your forthcoming ride to doom….

    Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, concludes his article entitled “The Collapse of American Power” ( March 18, 2008), with the following statement:

    ” The American economy has been devastated by offshoring, by foreign competition, and by the importation of foreigners on work visas, while it holds to a free trade ideology that benefits corporate fat cats and shareholders at the expense of American labor. The dollar is failing in its role as reserve currency and will soon be abandoned.
    When the dollar ceases to be the reserve currency, the US will no longer be able to pay its bills by borrowing more from foreigners.
    I sometimes wonder if the bankrupt “superpower” will be able to scrape together the resources to bring home the troops stationed in its hundreds of bases overseas, or whether they will just be abandoned.”

    To which I add and italicize: “abandoned troops that may well end up being cannibalized and eaten alive by starving emaciated Iraqis” !

    Finally, using the monkey’s fist analogy, the Americans, like the South African monkeys, are determined and single-minded creatures that have to hold-on and cannot ever let go!
    Hence, just like the monkeys, they will end up by being captured and destroyed. “That woman” referred to above, is just the very epitome of this grossly obscene mindset.

  25. Lloyd Rowsey said on March 23rd, 2008 at 9:26am #


    But the elephant in the corner is a nuclear strike on Iran. Not ANYTHING afterwards.