The Other Shoe

Posted: May 18, 2008 12:01 AM

Barack Obama is like a shot of Botox. Support him, and you take 10 years off your face. You join the cool crowd. You become one with idealistic kids and Hollywood glitterati.

Clinton Democrats can't compete. They're on the outside looking in. They used to be hip. They were the bad boys who scoffed at finger-wagging conservatives. Now, they have traded in their saxophones for a pantsuit.

The glamour is gone. Once, their very politics, the simple fact that they registered as Democrats instead of Republicans, made them better than meat-and-potatoes America. They cared more. They were smarter. They knew how to play the system. They were destined to run things.

Now they are trailing behind an upstart junior senator.

Before Iowa, when the Clintons were the party's power couple, the faithful quickly became indignant at any criticism, deserved or not, of either Clinton. As Obama racks up more delegates, Republicans and Democrats can say anything they want about either Clinton, and there is no outrage. Worse, it is now apostasy to criticize Obama.

Even if they were white, middle-aged and living in mostly white enclaves, Clintonians had a quick ticket to the votes of black America. If a Republican said something that could be construed as racist, they did not hesitate to pull the race card.

Now the First Black President and his missus, Hillary, are the race-baiters. The world is upside-down.

And they look like crybabies when they try to pull the gender card. It just isn't fair.

In the good ol' days, even when they lost a battle with Congress, their losses were sanitized by the news that they were riding high in the polls. Now, every time they stumble, it is further proof -- not that further proof is needed, pundits pile on -- that they are history.

And when they win, their victories don't rate the front page. Clintonia gets no credit.

Forget Martha's Vineyard. Don't even dream about Davos. These days, they are big in West Virginia.

Meanwhile, their rivals have become more brazen. There are more Obama signs on Berkeley lawns in May than there were before Super Tuesday, when Clinton won California. On the UC Berkeley campus, Hillary Rodham Clinton boosters have become defensive. Surly even. On cable networks, the talking heads are gleeful about their demise.

And there's nothing they can do to turn the ship around. The patina of inevitability has faded. The people who support them don't count. When they bring up Florida and Michigan, and invoke the old tried-and-true mantra, "Let every vote count," they are met with a shrug. When the old standby slogans don't work, what can you do?

Party insiders scowl that their competition is merely flash and charisma. They now have come to respect stamina. For some, the old defiance has ripened into stubbornness.

Poor, poor Clinton Democrats. Now they know how it feels to be Republicans.