February 12, 2008

More Identity Politics Fun

Who knew that Patty Solis Doyle was a Hispanic before getting the boot from the Hillary Clinton campaign? I'd wager that most people couldn't have identified "Solis" as Mexican before Hispanics complained about her termination. Now, however, her ethnic identity has overshadowed the fact that her client has good reason to be unhappy with the performance of the campaign:

Two New York Hispanic leaders said they would be upset if Hillary Rodham Clinton's Hispanic campaign manager was replaced because of primary losses they believe should be blamed on former President Bill Clinton and others.

Patti Solis Doyle, whose parents were Mexican immigrants, stepped down as Clinton's campaign manager this weekend as Clinton was losing five Democratic contests to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Clinton has said Doyle's decision was a personal response to a grueling campaign, not about job performance. She added that Solis Doyle would remain a senior adviser and that her campaign needed to add more staff.

In a letter to Clinton dated Monday and obtained by The Associated Press, State Sen. Ruben Diaz Jr. and Assemblyman Joseph Peralta, both New York City Democrats, wrote that they are inclined to believe the explanation, but `it will be very troubling to many if somehow we later find that she left her post under pressure because of the recent primary losses your campaign suffered."

The lawmakers credited Solis Doyle with helping build Hispanic support for Clinton and wrote that they hoped she was not "the one to take the blame and resign from her post instead of others involved with your campaign, including former President Clinton, who have caused serious problems and embarrassing situations for your campaign."

What do they want Hillary to do -- fire Bill? While many would have probably cheered Hillary had she walked out on him in 1997 after humiliating her on a national stage, it's not really an option at this point.

Clearly, this campaign needs a new direction. Campaigns that flounder have their leadership change, or they simply collapse. The candidate isn't going to replace herself, so Hillary went looking for a better fit. It's just like any other high-profile, high-pressure job -- either produce or leave. And no one thinks that the Hillary team has produced much outside of a surprise win in New Hampshire, after being the odds-on favorite for most of the last year to win in a walk.

The charge that Hillary somehow has insulted Hispanics by reassigning Doyle out of her leadership position points out the vapidity and patronization inherent in identity politics. If Hillary did make the change (the campaign and Doyle says it was voluntary), then she treated Doyle with the same respect any CEO or project executive would receive. The notion that Doyle needed to be carried because she's Hispanic should insult Hispanics everywhere.

It shows the fractures that will become ever more apparent in the Democratic Party. The constituent ethnic and gender factions that have been encouraged to cling to identities as the primary political issue will go to war with each other eventually for control of the party and the offices, especially the presidency. Every move will get scrutinized through the lens of victimization, and we will wind up with the ridiculous notion that only approved heads should roll when the party or its candidates runs off the rails.

It's a recipe for institutional incompetency. Sounds like a great strategy -- for Republican dominance.


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