The New York Times is now on autopilot, suffering from an astounding bit of groupthink. First, David Brooks, usually independent minded, echoes the chattering class sentiment about the terrible consequences of Hillary Clinton remaining in the race for president. Now Nick Kristof writes virtually the same thing. Maureen Dowd basically said that the Clintons are out to destroy the Democratic party by staying in the race. Please.
My spouse works for Clinton; that's well known. So take my opinion as you will but it seems crazy to me that Clinton should even consider dropping out at this point. Here's why:
1. What about Reagan, Hart and Kennedy? In my adulthood -- if a Bar Mitzvah counts as an entree to manhood -- there have been three all-the-way-to-the-convention races. In 1976, Ronald Reagan was further behind Gerald Ford at this point in the race but he remained in the hunt all the way until the convention. No one looks back on the Sainted Gipper as being "divisive" or helping the Democrats. Instead, his continuing to run is seen as a matter of principle. He not only held on to the convention but even took the audacious step of naming a moderate running mate, Richard Schweicker of Pennsylvania, in a Hail Mary attempt at winning over Ford delegates. Does David Brooks think Reagan was wrong? In 1984, Gary Hart stayed in the race until the convention and Ted Kennedy famously did so in 1980. Of course, Kennedy's churlish behavior at the convention -- he publicly dissed Jimmy Carter -- did help sink the party's chances in the fall but I don't see any of the Kennedy accolytes now saying Clinton should drop out. The Obamaites would like to see Clinton drop out so their man can win this thing with elected delegates. Forget it. He's going to have to get there with those icky superdelegates.
2. What's the Case for her Leaving? Mathematically, it is getting harder for her to win and it's hard to see how she's going to persuade superdelegates to abandon the first African-American nominee of a major party for her. I think Obama will be the nominee. But so what? As long as she has a plausible shot at the nomination and is within a couple of hundred delegates of Obama, so what if she keeps running? She has a shaky but still plausible argument come June: With Florida, where both she and Obama were on the ballot, she may have won the popular vote. She may have won all the big states save Obama's home of Illinois and North Carolina and she may, by that time, be ahead in the polls. That's not the best argument in the world but it's at least a reasonable one to present to superdelegates. By the way, Obamaites who are arguing that superdelegates should follow the lead of the people aren't making that argument to Ted Kennedy and Bill Richardson, who have endorsed their man, while coming from states that Clinton won.
3. What's Wrong with a Divided Convention? The new conventional wisdom is that a Democratic fight will doom the party. Maybe. It's possible. But it's hardly guaranteed. The primary fights have made Obama a better candidate and have arguably toughened him up for the fall in a way that running against the very impressive Alan Keyes never did. A divided convention will have incomparable viewership and will end with a united party. God forbid, the delegates in Denver actually have something to do other than be props for a DNC infomercial. So what if there are a couple of ballots? It'll be real politics and it will, I bet, make the party stronger. Of course, if Clinton or Obama is truculent like Kennedy in '80 it will hurt the party but neither wants the rap for bringing th party down. Of course, if Obama does get enough delegates to be the nominee Clinton should, like Mike Huckabee before her, get out of the race or risk looking like an idiot. But until that time why should Obama be given a coronation?
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