Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island yesterday and closed the gap between her and Senator Obama by about a dozen delegates, and Obama won the popular vote in the state of Vermont. Congratulations to both campaigns.
There's been some chatter about a combined Clinton/Obama (or Obama/Clinton) ticket lately or calling for Clinton to drop out because people are fearing the party is divided, Republicans are regrouping faster than Democrats, and Democrats will lose to John McCain in November because of all this chaos. Frankly it's hard to see all that much to the argument; it seems to have little foundation in fact and to be based in a narrative that any protracted political conflict means disunity. And disunity means people fighting in the street. And that means everything goes down the tubes.
This thing won't be over until it's over, and looking for an easy way out now makes me question our ability to stay in this for the long fight, the fight that goes beyond Obama or Clinton or Democrats or Republicans or any specific legislation, but goes straight to enacting, legislatively, culturally, and through other means, our vision for a queer-affirming and otherwise free and equal society.
And, as a queer boy, I'm particularly at odds with any argument that starts with a desperation to end conflict, to see both sides of an argument as moral and utilitarian equals, and to find a happy middle in a conflict where it's more than likely that one side is simply better based on whatever criteria one wants to use.
This primary season hasn't been going all that late, as Slate reminds us:
The calls to wrap up the Democratic primary race show a similar amnesia. To suggest that March 5 marks a late date in the calendar ignores the duration of primary seasons past. Indeed, were Hillary Clinton to have pulled out of the race this week, Obama would have actually clinched a contested race for the party's nomination earlier than almost any other Democrat since the current primary system took shape--the sole exception being John Kerry four years ago. Fighting all the way through the primaries, in other words, is perfectly normal.
And it hasn't been all that bitter, as Howard Dean reminds us:
I can't imagine that what we're seeing now between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, yes, is anything but a--a tea party compared to what the general election's going to be like in the fall.[...]
Chris, four years ago, my opponents got together and had a political action committee, all four of which contributors contributed to the thing, which morphed me into Osama bin Laden. So this is pattycake. This is a tough campaign between two well--well-spoken, smart people, either of whom is capable of being president of the United States. But this is not, by and large, out of bounds.
Sure, the campaign will probably get a bit meaner as we head on into Pennsylvania (the new State that Will Decide Everything), but there's little evidence that this is materially hurting the party, especially since fund-raising and voter turnout for Democrats is higher than it's ever been, and most of Clinton's and Obama's supporters will be quite happy with voting for the other candidate over John "Ten thousand more years" McCain.
In fact, that this primary is taking so long can be great for the Democrats. McCain's getting a bit of attention right now because of GWB's endorsement today (thanks, Mr. President!), but let's face it: the show's over there with the two engaging political celebrities discussing policy and duking it out. Once one of them drops out, McCain's going to take center stage again, and there's something to be said for the spotlight staying on the Democrats.
Also, the fact that both Clinton and Obama might win this thing makes it harder for Republicans to start attacking. From Digby:
There is no shortage of money, both candidates provide some fascination to the media and until the party decides, they will remain moving targets for the Republicans. After all, they can't settle on a narrative until one of the candidates is chosen. One of the upsides of the two candidates we have is that while they are very similar on policy, traditional GOP attacks will have to be tailored differently. If McCain is forced to campaign against them on the issues, which is what they have in common, he loses. On the issues, Democrats win.
And add in the fact that Democratic positions on important issues like health care and the war are simply more popular right now, that each Democrat has done much better in fundraising than any Republican presidential contender, and that John McCain is more corrupt than the politicians his campaign finance bill was supposed rein in. The question isn't whether a Democrat will take the White House or not, the question is will they do anything with it once they're there.
So I'm thinking about where this narrative, that the party will crumble down because Clinton's staying in, is coming from. And I can't stop thinking about how often people with less investment in the material outcome of the political process, like rich pundits, tend to ignore the real impacts of policy-making in favor of meta. Since the outcome isn't going to affect them, why not chatter away about how the feelings of divisiveness are so awful, since it's not like people are divided for any good reason anyway?
I always cringe at calls to meet others half-way when it comes to policy-making because that always seems to favor those in power. One side can always go off the deep-end, making "half-way" what they wanted in the first place. Getting caught up in the meta of where "half-way" is just lets people off the hook when it comes to making their arguments.
But I suppose that my distaste for this form of compromise (definitely not all compromise) is informed by the knowledge that leftward change is itself not a compromise. It's demanding justice, equality, freedom, and socio-economic security and in the process pissing people off who benefit from the absence of those ideals. It involves anger, rancor, discord, hurt feelings, heated arguments, and a lack of compromise. Some people won't get what they want since they want too much for themselves at the expense of others and they'll just have to deal.
Neither Obama nor Clinton are in favor of that kind of change (and I also understand that many of the calls for her to drop out are coming from people who just want to see Obama win as soon as possible, but not all), but if we're not willing to accept the low level of discord in this Democratic primary season, I've got to wonder if we're ready for any sort of substantive change at all.
The narrative we were fed in the 2000 elections, as Digby points out at the link above, that started with "the hysterical notion that if the election wasn't decided immediately that the streets would run with blood and the nation would fall into chaos" and "ended up creating the illusion that deadlines were more important than the principle of counting all the votes," has partly effected this aversion to continuing the primary season until at least all states have had a chance to vote (hey, my home state of Indiana still hasn't had its primary!). 2000 was all meta, meta, meta, and it didn't end up helping the left one bit in this country.
Keeping politics focused on real issues is one of the most powerful ways I can imagine at this point to move the country in a leftward direction, and there has to be more willingness to put up with a fight and to see that, sometimes, one side is simply correct and there is no compromise possible.