Hillary Clinton really should not have gotten into the business of talking about who has contempt for which voters. By all accounts, she is ambitious and hard-hitting. That means that she has, in all likelihood, said any number of things that could be taken to express contempt for various groups of voters. And once she decided to get into the "bitter" debate, it was only a matter of time before they surfaced. As I noted before, she has been quoted as saying "screw 'em" about southern white working class voters. Now Celeste Fremon at Huffington Post has acquired audio of her saying the following at a "small closed-door fundraiser after Super Tuesday":
"We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."
"Clinton's remarks depart radically from the traditional position of presidential candidates, who in the past have celebrated high levels of turnout by party activists and partisans as a harbinger for their own party's success -- regardless of who is the eventual nominee -- in the general election showdown.
The comments also contradict Clinton's previous statements praising this year's elevated Democratic turnout in primaries and caucuses, and appear to blame her caucus defeats on newly energized grassroots voter groups that she has lauded in the past as "lively participants" in American democracy."
She also notes that MoveOn denies having opposed the war in Afghanistan.
A few comments: first, I am a member of MoveOn. I joined during the Clinton impeachment hearings, and have remained on their list ever since. I signed some of their petitions opposing the war in Iraq, and voted for an endorsement of Obama, though I wavered on that one because I worried that since Republicans equate MoveOn with radicals, it might be counterproductive. Needless to say, I supported the war in Afghanistan.
All it takes to be one of MoveOn's "3.2 million reliable voters and volunteers" is to sign up for their emails. You don't pay dues, sign position papers, or anything like that. You just sign up for the emails, and voila! you are a genuine certified MoveOn member. Personally, I'm a member because I like seeing the emails they send out. I would be astonished if, say, none of the editors at RedState was a "member" for exactly the same reason. More to the point, I would be astonished if a lot of their members hadn't signed up because of one particular issue -- e.g., the war in Iraq -- and just stayed on the list.
Which is just to say: membership in MoveOn means very little.
Much more to the point, equating "the activist base of the Democratic Party" with people who "didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with" is just completely wrong. "The activist base of the Democratic Party" is concerned with a lot of issues. A small number of us opposed the war in Afghanistan. That is not a mainstream position within "the activist base of the Democratic Party", as far as I know. On the other hand, a whole lot of us opposed the war in Iraq. To the extent that "the activist base" opposes Clinton, her vote on Iraq has a lot more to do with it than her vote on Afghanistan.
Conflating opposition to the war in Iraq with opposition to the war in Afghanistan is exactly the sort of thing that drives me up a tree when, say, Peter Beinart does it. It amounts to taking a position that a whole lot of people hold -- either opposing Clinton herself, or opposing the war in Iraq -- and conflating it with one that only a small minority of people hold, and then using that supposed "fact" to discredit your opponents -- to cast them as members of some tiny fringe that doesn't need to be taken seriously. It is what Atrios calls the "dirty f*cking hippies" argument: that people who oppose the war in Iraq, or Clinton herself, are just relics of the 1960s, or some other variant of "not serious people like us", and their views can therefore be dismissed out of hand. "MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with."
To say this about her opponents is just wrong. But to say it about the activist base of her party -- about the people who are motivated enough to show up for caucuses and participate in the electoral process -- is insane. Hillary Clinton is running for the nomination of the Democratic Party. She is trying to represent us. If she thinks that people like publius, who caucused in Texas, is worthy of contempt, or that the stunning increase in Democratic voter participation this year is not a cause for joy but a sign that the dirty f*cking hippies have taken over, why doesn't she just become a Republican? She's certainly talking like one.
UPDATE: (1) To be clear, what bothers me is both her mischaracterization of Democratic activists' views and the fact that, as I read it, she might as well have said: it was so much easier when voters were more docile and didn't pester us with their actual views.
(2) I didn't mean to imply that anyone who opposed the invasion of Afghanistan was not worth taking seriously; just that that seemed to me to be what Clinton meant when she said "MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with", and that she was using opposition to the invasion of Afghanistan to mean: not serious.
I think the case against invading Afghanistan was a whole lot harder to make than the case against invading Iraq. But I see no reason to think that there were no good reasons for opposing it. ("Good reason", here, doesn't mean "reason I accept": obviously, since I supported invading Afghanistan, I think that the case against invasion wasn't good enough.) Reasons based on extensive knowledge of Afghanistan's history and our military capabilities leap to mind as a possibility. In any case, though, I was characterizing what I took to be Clinton's views, not mine.