Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stay In The Race

Image credit:, reduced by Cujo359.

Bloomberg reports today:

Supporters of Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said neither candidate should feel compelled to leave the race until June, after all states have held their nominating contests.

Clinton, who trails Obama in total votes and pledged delegates, has spent the last four days rejecting calls to drop out of the race from politicians who say she can't overcome Obama's lead in delegates for the nomination. Clinton told the Washington Post yesterday that she may continue running until the Democratic nominating convention in August.

Obama, Clinton Should Stay in Race Until June, Supporters Say

In one sense, I no longer have a horse in this race. Of course, anyone who's read my comments on the two remaining candidates knows I favor Hillary Clinton, but that's beside the point. Even if I were in favor of Obama, but otherwise possessed of my senses, I'd be writing that she should stay in the race until there's clearly no chance she can win. Bill Richardson, an Obama supporter, agrees, at least to a point:

"She has every right to stay in the race," New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who's supporting Obama, said today on the CBS Face the Nation program. "But I think it's important, at the end of the June 3 date, we look at who has the most delegates, who has the most popular vote, who has the most states."

Obama, Clinton Should Stay in Race Until June, Supporters Say

I think she should stay in until it's clear she can't win, whenever that is, but otherwise Richardson's right. Barack Obama adds:

"My attitude is that Sen. Clinton can run as long as she wants. Her name is on the ballot. And she is a fierce and formidable competitor, and she obviously believes that she would make the best nominee and the best opponent," [Obama] said. "I think that you know she should be able to compete and her supporters should be able to support her for as long as they are willing or able."

Obama: Calls For Hillary To Quit Are Premature

To think this race is over is to not be aware of where it is at the moment. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter, provides some perspective:

“Just flip it for a second,” Mr. Rendell said. “Let’s say Senator Clinton was ahead by about 110 delegates and ahead by less than 1 percent of the vote cast, and she and her supporters started to call on Senator Obama to get out. Just picture what the media would be saying. They’d be saying you’re being racist, you’re being everything in the world. It’s nuts! It’s nuts!”

Endorsement of Obama Points Up Clinton Obstacles

This thing isn't over. Not by a longshot. That's particularly true when superdelegates make up a substantial part of the delegate count. They aren't pledged to vote for anyone.

Being President requires more than just giving pretty speeches. It involves gaining enough support from Congress to get legislation passed in a way you want it to. For an example of how things go when this works, see Lyndon Johnson. For an example of how things go when that doesn't work, see Jimmy Carter. As both Vice President and President, Johnson managed to push through a tremendous amount of progressive legislation. He managed to get the Dixiecrats to allow the Civil Rights Bill to pass. Carter, on the other hand, despite initially strong support of the electorate, couldn't get anything he wanted out of Congress.

I know that any suggestion that Johnson helped pass the Civil Rights Act, as Senator Clinton did not all that long ago, will send Obama supporters into overload. Somehow, they seem to think that this is demeaning to Martin Luther King and all the other civil rights workers who brought that issue to the nation's attention in the first place. If you're one of the people who believe that, then you either know far too little about your government's history, or you're a raving shithead. Johnson got that bill passed, with some help from others in Congress and pressure from around the country. If he hadn't gotten the Dixiecrats to cooperate by not filibustering, we'd still be waiting for it to pass. The Republicans' pandering to the "states rights" crowd would have been enough to keep that bill in committee for a generation. That he did that in no way diminishes what the civil rights movement did to get that legislation there.

That's why I think that Hillary should stay in this race until it's certain she can't win. Being President is about being able to deal with your own party and the opposition to get things done. If Barack Obama can't do that, then he shouldn't be President. On that score, Kevin Hayden had an interesting observation a couple of weeks ago:

Clinton keeps utilizing spin to try and achieve victory. Obama’s team keeps out-organizing them though, gaining what counts: more delegates. Ohio and Rhode Island have been the only exceptions since Super Tuesday. 13 out of 15 times since, Obama’s walked away with more delegates and he’s also pulled in far more superdelegates in the same period.

Obama wins more delegates today by being well organized

In short, Obama's not bringing a knife to that gunfight. He's doing very well at courting superdelegates, as Bill Richardson's endorsement should make clear. Speaking of fights, Kevin has a few more words of wisdom:

Sure, there’s Obama supporters so angry they say they won’t vote for Clinton and there’s even more Clinton supporters saying the same about Obama. And the tenor of the campaign is part of why that’s so. But even that’s not the whole story. Race, gender, and past records account for some of that obstinacy. And how people feel by June 3rd is not a good predictor of how they’ll act on Election Day.
And don’t start expecting Clinton to concede the nomination easily. After Pennsylvania, which she’s heavily favored to win, she really needs Indiana at minimum, and probably North Carolina, which will be very hard to do. So if you thought the Reverend Wright flap was bad, you ought to be prepared for another fresh revelation and new line of attack to emerge before that pair of primaries. Because that’s how political campaigning is done when it’s the fourth quarter, and the two minute warning occurs.

The candidate that’s behind starts throwing Hail Marys, hoping for a lucky break. So it’s likely to get contentious all over again. Folks will get apoplectic again. And at the end of it all, a nominee will emerge. Half of the party will sulk. Pundits will ask if the party’s broken.

And frankly, the party won’t be broken, as much as I wish it were. After all, what I want from the nominee is someone who represents me, my family and community and the US of A. The party’s just a vehicle, not the destination.

It’s the stupid primaries, stupid

This primary fight won't have any effect that I can see on the outcome of the general election, other than to determine who goes into it as the Democratic nominee. In the end, most of us will choose between whatever is the lesser of evils presented us. There's already plenty of hard feelings and there are more than a few people whose judgment I've learned not to trust. All that aside, I have yet to see any evidence that an acrimonious primary fight in and of itself will lead to defeat in November. If anyone has an example of one from the last century, let me know, but all the typical examples had plenty of alternative explanations, including the things that caused those fights. By those standards, this thing's been a pillow fight.

So, I invite all the Obamabots and pundits to get over themselves and consider the fact that this might actually be a Democratic convention that decides something. Revel in the suspense, and remember that this is why we have conventions.

UPDATE: You can add Alegre and Mick Arran to the list of folks who can tell you about hard feelings.