George Will

In the 1920s, the Brooklyn Dodgers finished in sixth place seven times in eight years. Late in that unfortunate period, a droll sportswriter, noting the team's listless play, wrote, ``Overconfidence may yet cost Brooklyn sixth place.''

Hillary Clinton's campaign did not display overconfidence when it directed the recent fusillade at Barack Obama. Her campaign's rhetorical megatonnage was in response to a prominent Obama contributor saying rude things about her. Her overreaction was one of several developments that have clarified the Democratic contest.

Bill Clinton has said, regarding presidential candidates, that Republicans like to fall in line and Democrats like to fall in love. Which explains the Clinton campaign's palpable panic: Democrats have fallen in love, but not with her.

Republicans tend to nominate the next person in line: Vice President Richard Nixon, not Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, to follow President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960; Vice President George H.W. Bush, not Sen. Robert Dole, to follow President Ronald Reagan in 1988; Dole rather than Lamar Alexander or any other contender in 1996; Gov. George W. Bush, whose dynastic lineage propelled him past Sen. John McCain in 2000.

There is a Republican tinge to Sen. Clinton's campaign: She is next in line. That fact -- combined with the Clintons' (how often the plural is pertinent) money machine, combined with the Clintons' earned reputation for ferocity -- is supposed to impart to her an aura of inevitability.

But such an aura annoys voters by telling them that they really have no choice. And that can provoke them to play the game that G.K. Chesterton called ``Cheat the Prophet'': The players listen politely to explanations of what is inevitable, then they make something else happen, which defeats boredom.

Boredom, the sociologist Robert Nisbet wrote, is among the universal and insistent forces driving human behavior. Mankind's nervous system evolved during millions of dangerous years (saber-toothed tigers, etc.). Now, however, mankind has suddenly, in a few millennia, encountered the monotony of orderly life, which bothers human brains formed by and for hazardous circumstances.

Among the cures of boredom that Nisbet listed are war, murder, revolution, suicide, alcohol, narcotics and pornography. He might have added presidential politics. Memo to the Clinton campaign: Inevitability is boring.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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