Yes, the current round of sniping between Obama and Clinton is at best unedifying and at worst potentially disastrous for the Democratic party. The trouble with negative campaigning, especially when it’s mutual, is that the voters tend to believe all of it, on all sides. When that involves both sides in a general election, the result is low voter turnout, which has been a problem in this country for a long time. But when it involves the two leading candidates in a primary, the result is a totally unearned bonanza for the other candidate. McCain has figured this out, and is milking it for all he can get.
Many Democratic pundits have figured it out too. Almost all of them want to solve it by getting Clinton to bow out. It seems fairly clear that she can win the nomination only by the votes of the “superdelegates.” Obama’s supporters are taking the position that the existence and position of the superdelegates is fundamentally illegitimate. They are the last vestige of the smoke-filled room system that preceded the reforms of 1972. Are the Obamaniacs taking that position on principle, or just because it produces the result they want? They had no problem with the DNC’s position on the votes from the Michigan and Florida primaries, which coincidentally also produced the results they wanted. Isn’t that convenient? as the Church Lady would say.
Certainly the sooner this mess is over, the better. Certainly there is no point telling the candidates to stop slinging mud and talk about the issues–they have virtually no disagreement about the issues. The conflict is completely about personalities. Most US elections ultimately come down to personalities, or rather the perception of personalities. But usually the battle of perceived personalities is the last act, the general election. This year is a rarity. There weren’t that many disagreements among Democrats about the issues, once the “not-serious” candidates like Kucinich were weeded out. But the elimination of the not-serious candidates from the primary has left two candidates, pretty much in agreement about the issues, standing, not just one.
And the test of “personality” this year may very well be the willingness to step aside for the greater good. Which is kind of like the old water test for witchcraft–if the water accepts the suspected witch, that proves she is innocent. It also leaves her drowned. If she floats, that proves the water has rejected her for her witchcraft. The punishment for which, of course, is burning. The candidate who bows out of this race may thereby be proved to be the nicer person–and also, of course, the non-candidate. The candidate who stays is the one who gets to go up against McCain in the general election–after having proved himself or herself the meanest SOB on the block. After that, all McCain has to do is avoid torturing kittens for a few months, and the election is his.
But, even assuming the “nice guys finish last” approach makes any sense in this election, why should the “nice guy” have to be the woman? Is America really less ready for a woman president than for an African-American president? Or are women just required to be nicer, when the issue of niceness gets raised at all? Girls, admittedly, are raised to let somebody else have the last piece of pie. Boys are taught that politeness demands only that they smile when taking the last piece. Obama is very good at smiling. Is this the scenario being played out now?
And one final question: cui bono? Who benefits from this state of affairs? Obviously, the GOP. Is it at all possible that at least some of the support behind Obama’s highly improbable blast-from-out-of-nowhere candidacy comes from the other side of the aisle? Gee, ya think?