March 5th, 2008

Advantages of a lengthy, bitter campaign—for the Democrats

You’ve probably all read about the disadvantages of the lengthy unresolved Democratic campaign. Less time to unify. Lingering bitterness. Lots of fun video clips the Republicans can use against the eventual nominee in the general election.

But there are advantages as well. Two were mentioned by Lindsay Graham in a post-SuperTuesdayTwo Fox News interview I glanced at today: energized fundraising, and honing their campaigning skills. Lack of the latter (which presumabably will fall to John McCain) is something like what happens when a team clinches the division title too early, or a tennis player has too easy a path to the finals, and gets to face an opponent who’s been forced by stiffer competition to be on top of his/her game.

Still another advantage I can think of for the Democrats this year is connected to some flaws in the primary process itself. It used to be, with the convention system and those smoke-filled rooms, that party regulars only chose the nominee a few months before the election. That way, they had a chance to respond to more recent events—both external ones, and those connected with the prospective nominees themselves. Now, with the primary system, the nominees can get locked in very early, and the system can be too rigid to respond to new information.

For example: the trial of Obama associate and financial supporter Tony Rezko has just begun. Although Obama is not implicated in any transaction for which Rezko is under indictment, his name will come up in the trial. There is always the possibility that some event connected with it could end up casting a worse light on Obama for certain business associations with Rezko (see this and this).

Imagine if this happened after Obama had clinched the nomination. I’m not just picking on Obama here—the problem is inherent in a primary system that can lock in a nominee so early, especially a relatively unknown and unvetted one.

In a sense, then, it’s a good thing (for Democrats, that is) that the Democratic race remains fluid and responsive. And the press does no one any favors by giving a candidate a relatively free ride—whatever skeletons lurk in the closet are bound to come out in a general election. Much better that they be rattled about in the open air before the voters have committed to a nominee.

8 Responses to “Advantages of a lengthy, bitter campaign—for the Democrats”

  1. Vanderleun Says:

    I vote for unleashing Chiang Kai-shek…. er…. Michelle Obama and letting her rip!

  2. gcotharn Says:

    You make a fantastic point: the extended primary gives the Dems flexibiltiy to respond to circumstances.

    Everyone is writing that Obama has the delegate lead wrapped up and stashed beyond Hillary’s reach. They do not consider that Obama’s brittle exterior shell might shatter. Obama: Potemkin shell, cotton candy center.

    I’m not saying that’s likely; but I am saying it’s a definite possibility(just as the New York Giants were a definite possibility to win the Super Bowl).

    Obama’s brittle shell + cotton candy center reminds of a corrupt or oppressive government which is just barely maintaining control of it’s people. When a piece of that government shatters just a bit, suddenly the entire shell of a government structure shatters and crashes to the ground. It happens shockingly fast – like the U.S.S.R. in 1991.

    Obama is like a government which is scrambling to hold everything in place. Obama is scrambling to hold the illusion in place. From the outside, we can clearly see the freight train of reality is going to smash Obama to pieces. We cannot see when. Maybe after he already the Dem nominee. Maybe in February 2009, after he is already POTUS. But the freight train is coming. Reality is bearing down on Obama, and there will be a 100 MPH collision. The only question is when. If it happens in the next couple of months, the Dems retain the flexibility to shift to Hillary.

  3. Ralph Says:

    There’s a disadvantage that I’ve not seen pointed out, however: In a lengthy primary Hillary and Obama will be forced to more clearly explain what they really want to do, and why their approach is different.

    Many liberal/socialist ideas sound really nice at the “overview” level, but lose much of their appeal when examined in detail. That’s why so many Democrats run as “stealth liberals” trying to appear more centrist than they really are.

    It will be harder to “maintain the stealth systems” through an extended campaign; particularly one that is trying to appeal to the left-wing activists of the Democratic Party.

  4. Ozyripus Says:

    “an opponent who’s been forced by stiffer competition to be on top of his/her game.”

    “his/hers” ??? neo, have the courage of an authentic semicolon-user, and just say “his.”

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Ozyripus: I can’t help it. It’s the liberal in me.

  6. sergey Says:

    Personality cult is a very brittle thing indeed. U.S.S.R. collapse has largely economic causes. But see what happened to Chausescu: in one day from hysterically loved Father of the Nation he became the most hated man in the country.

  7. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

    Let’s recall the Swift Boat Veterans here — more scrutiny of Kerry earlier would have found out this BIG negative, sooner. I think Bush’s 60 mil. votes would have been a lot less without Kerry to vote against; although, considering Iraq (21 mil), moral values (26 mil), and taxes/ economy (8 mil), perhaps only 5 mil votes were really in play. (Or, the exit polls missed folks who said a “primary reason” but were really rationalizing an anti-Kerry vote).
    (See my 2004 3-d Analysis and Pew exit polls)

    If Hillary wins, (R) McCain has better chances to win more (55%?) Much better chances. Maybe.

  8. OBloodyhell Says:

    >>> “an opponent who’s been forced by stiffer competition to be on top of his/her game.”

    >> “his/hers” ??? neo, have the courage of an authentic semicolon-user, and just say “his.”

    I’ve long been a proponent of just using the third-person plural form: “their” and “theirs”.

    It rarely sounds bad and it makes a nice gender-neutral alternative.

    “…An opponent who’s … on top of their game”.

    Yeah, some pedant might correct the usage, but I’ve found such to be rare. Most get the intent and have no problem with it, I think…

    If we are going to actually care about the “inappropriateness” of the older “his for both” rule, then someone needs to come up with a solution — and just extending the plural form downwards fits other usages and isn’t as clunky as most of the other suggestions, like “s/he” or whatever.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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