What is about Tom Wilkinson that allows him to move from the old, sun-spotted, strangely-haired political cynic of the American 18th century to a pin-striped version of the same - sans all wisdom and humanity - circa November, 2000? Wilkinson's Ben Franklin in John Adams was mottled, debauched and wise whereas his James Baker is simply mottled, but a snarling mongoose of a political killer nonetheless in Recount, the costume drama twin to the revolutionary mini-series - and certainly a moral counterpart to the founders' idealism. Bewigged in both, Wilkinson is HBO's type-cast back room boy at both the glorious founding and the immoral political drama of eight years ago.
Yet, as good as Recount is - and it is very well done - it carries a kind of phantom, lost-limbed agony for Democrats. We thought we'd excised that bit of gangrene long ago, but damn if it doesn't feel both amazingly recent and strangely prescient. The long and painful loss of 2000 and the short and painful loss of 2004. Gore, now beloved but then befuddled in a cloud of arrogance and Clinton regret. His team in Florida led by Bill Daley from the Chicago machine and the legal eminence of Warren Christopher - both of them bringing pea-shooters to a knife fight. Four years later, there is Kerry losing by the grace of Ohio's swing-state working class whites. Two races that should have been won.
Jump ahead and we're still talking about Florida and its strange ways, always failing Democrats and tripping over its own political feet. Then, the purple state working class, still on our minds, still crucial in Ohio, and Pennsylvania and Michigan. Two razor thin races, and now a third - this time within our own party. This time, we're split, and it's becoming increasingly clear that the followers of the near-winner don't care any more about the loyalists of the near-loser in their own party than Jim Baker cared for polite debate in Florida. Lance Mannion took on the Obama bloggers's sheer dismissal of the other half of their own party in stern fashion today:
...it's not simply the case that 15 to 16 million people don't like Barack Obama or like Hillary "for whatever reasons"---as opposed to all those Obama supporters for whom liking has nothing to do with their decisions; their votes are based entirely on their having read all the position papers and come to the only rational conclusions, neverminding their personal feelings about either candidate.
It's the case that millions of people think she would be the better President.
Almost exactly the same number as think that Barack Obama would be better.
Those people don't understand why their votes should be dismissed out of hand as if they mattered as little as the votes Mike Gravel's going to get in the fall.
It feels like a typically ham-handed Democratic move, frankly. As does the rush to find reasons why Hillary Clinton should not share the ticket with Barack Obama, and the roadblocks to counting election votes in the same state that cost Al Gore in 2000, and the big push to get Clinton to drop out the race before the convention - the very first time in history such a resignation from the playing field with that much support will ever have occurred.
There's a willful disregard for political reality in both the Obama camp and among his most ardent followers. Just go away is the snarling consensus toward Senator Clinton and her husband, the still widely-popular 42nd President of the United States. And to the rest of us who have supported the Clinton campaign, the message is just as blunt: get in line.
It's nasty, sure - a kind of salt in the wound strategy, I guess. But more important, it's as clueless as Daley and Christopher in Florida - especially when you consider how wounded so many women voters are by the sexist nature of the media coverage of this campaign. Over at FireDogLake, Jane Hamsher cooks up a strategy that just might work for John McCain - carefully and respectfully cultivate Democratic women who backed Senator Clinton:
I was watching a clip of Geraldine Ferraro on Fox News the other day, and the ground is definitely being tested for an appeal to Hillary's female supporters who think she's been done wrong. (We'll leave aside the supreme irony of the very architects of the anti-Clinton narrative playing the collective role of Sir Galahad here.) I watched the clip and thought "you know, if the Clinton exit isn't orchestrated well and I'm John McCain, I go straight for the women."
Like Lance, I'm not on the Obama circus train yet, but I'll happily climb aboard before it leaves this particular station on the way to November. But as the fierce back and forth on this blog and many others shows clearly, there are many committed Democratic women (and men, I am reminded in comments) who may never board that train. And if McCain adopts the Hamsher plan - and the Obama campaign continues its tone-deafness toward Clinton supporters - it may be time to get Tom Wilkinson into makeup again. With the right bit of artistry he could play Senator McCain in the latest installment of what has become quite the long-running horror series for the Democratic Party.