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No, Clinton's Speech Was Not Okay

Now that Hillary Clinton is reportedly planning to drop out of the race, everybody's treating her graciously, but things are starting to get out of hand. Ross Douthat and Josh assert that her speech Tuesday night was really not that bad. What? It's not just that she kept on saying why she'd be a better president, refused once again to admit that he had even won a state (let alone more delegates), or say anything kind about his abilities as a potential president -- though all those things were tactless. She insisted on fueling her supporters' absurd sense that the nomination has been stolen from her. That's a horrible thing to do.

Less annoying, but still annoying, was her justification for staying in the race until the end:

Even when the pundits and the naysayers proclaimed week after week that this race was over, you kept on voting.

I don't think the pundits were saying the race was literally over. I think we were saying that her non-trivial chances of winning were over. And they were. After Obama took an insurmountable delegate lead, he endured some of the worst crises of his candidacy (Jeremiah Wright, Bittergate, the return of Wright), Clinton became vastly more effective, and nonetheless Clinton came nowhere close to threatening Obama's lead. A lead you hold even after everything goes wrong is the definition of an insurmountable lead.

It's quite clear that Clinton's decision to stay in the primary despite having essentially zero chance of victory hurt the party. During that period, Obama's favorability among white women sharply declined. Now, Clinton's supporters have cited her need to "exit the race on her own terms." But her decision to privilege her own sense of dignity came at a clear cost to the prospects of the Democratic Party and all the causes (like universal health care) she claims to value above all. If she had stopped campaigning after it was clear she had no real chance to win, or at least stopped stoking her supporters' paranoia with absurd claims of disenfranchisement, the prospects for universal health care and the like would be higher right now. I don't know how you describe that decision except as an act of selfishness.

--Jonathan Chait