2008: Let the primary process play out

"Leahy says Clinton should withdraw" - AP Headline (2008-03-28).

Sen. Patrick Leahy, in an interview with Vermont Public Radio Thursday, urged Hillary Clinton to throw herself on her sword for the good of the party. Leahy, who just happens to favor Barack Obama for the nomination, said that, since the Obama team has decided there's no way that Clinton is going to win enough pledged delegates to get the nomination, she should quit.

Another Obama partisan, Sen. Chris Dodd, expressed a similar sentiment the same day.

Reacting to polls showing that some Obama and Clinton faithful say they will vote for John McCain if their own candidate is not the Democratic nominee, Obama supporters argue that animosity from the primary fight could hurt Democratic chances in November.

Obama got another boost Thursday when party chairman Howard Dean called on the superdelegates to commit to one candidate or the other by June 1, he said in the hope of avoiding a divisive fight on the convention floor.

“You do not want to demoralize the base of the Democratic Party by having the Democrats attack each other....Let the media and the Republicans and the talking heads on cable television attack and carry on, fulminate at the mouth. The supporters should keep their mouths shut about this stuff on both sides because that is harmful to the potential victory of a Democrat,” Dean told the AP.

But it seems to me that Dean and the Obamanians are whining about a situation that actually works in their favor. The longer the race is undecided, the longer it will be before the Republicans and the corporate media have a clear idea whom they're supposed to bring down. If John McCain has gotten a free ride from the media in this campaign, as some media critics maintain, it's not because the Democratic contenders' internecine combat has impeded their ability to take on the putative Republican nominee (both Clinton and Obama did so Thursday, for example, when they attacked the Arizona senator's economic proposals, and they've been doing so for months).

Meanwhile the party of Roosevelt is free to pile on McCain. If they don't want to leave it to the candidates, the DNC could designate Bill Clinton a one man hit team to follow McCain around taking potshots at him, which would have the added benefit of keeping the Billster too busy to make further mischief within his own party. If that seems too undignified a task for a former president, even Bill Clinton, they could field an actual team of clever rhetoricians (Barney Frank and Dennis Kucinich, come to mind) to do the job. Or Howard Dean's office could take a page from the GOP playbook and prepare a daily sheet of anti-McCain talking points to be distributed at the crack of dawn to every Democratic candidate, spokesperson, PAC and blogger in the universe.

In any case, McCain's free ride is likely to continue until the election is decided (David Brock has even written a book, Free Ride: John McCain and the Media, an expose of the press' coital relationship with the senator that every political junkie should read). It won't hurt McCain with the media that he is now the anointed candidate of the Right, but his greatest advantage is that reporters just like hanging out with the guy.

If the superdelegates settle it before the primaries are over, or if Hillary gives in to pressure to stand down, the effect will be to render the remaining tallies moot. You will recall that the party stripped Michigan and Florida of their convention delegates after those states tried to jump to the head of the line of voters in violation of party rules. Now they want to do the same thing to the Democrats who haven't voted yet.

So let me see if I have this straight. The voters in Florida and Michigan are being disenfranchised because their state parties didn't follow the rules. And now, if Dean and the Obama team have their ways, because the primaries in these states are coming later in the process, the voters in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina and so on are to be disenfranchised because their parties did follow the rules.

Seem fair to you?

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