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Sam Sedaei Headshot

The Price of Loyalty

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On Wednesday, the Gallop Poll reported on a new survey's findings that the battle between Senators Clinton and Obama is leading many democrats to say they would vote for McCain if their favorite candidate isn't nominated. 19% of Obama supporters asked by the survey expressed this intention and that number for Clinton's supporters was a whopping 28%.

There are several important things to observe about this report:

The report declares that "a sizable proportion of Democrats would vote for John McCain next November if he is matched against the candidate they do not support for the Democratic nomination." That's incorrect. The right conclusion is that a sizable portion of democrats say that's what they are going to do. No one knows who will vote for whom eight months from now. As insignificant as Clinton's chances of victory may be, we are still in the middle of a contested campaign. So it is most likely that many of the respondents are actively thinking about what they can do to impact the outcome of the nomination process and are employing "fear tactics" in their responses to scare the superdelegates into giving their candidate the nomination.

The second point is that Clinton supporters are more frustrated these days about their candidate's dimming chances of winning this nomination. This is understandable, but it may also be one reason why more Clinton supporters are saying they would vote for McCain if she is not the nominee than there are Obama supporters who would do that if she is the nominee.

The most plausible explanation for the stated willingness of this many Clinton supporters - most of whom are traditional democrats - to support McCain is that their response is a natural reflection of their emotions on the eve of their candidate's sinking candidacy. While this is how these supporters are feeling now, once they see that the choice is between Obama - who wants to bring troops home, provide universal healthcare and roll back tax-cuts for the wealthy as Sen. Clinton does - and McCain who intends to do none of the above, most of them are likely to come around and support Obama.

This brings us to third point, which is that the party can eventually recover and unite, but only if the democrats can have a nominee in or before June. If they go on to the convention with no nominee, the emotions of those die-hard supporters of either candidate will have lasted longer and become stronger. This will make it a whole lot harder for the Democratic nominee to unite the party in less than three months to carry the general election.

But "what a shame" was the first thought that crossed my mind when I read the result of this survey. Here is a group of voters who are either willing to lie to manipulate the results of a survey or have been genuinely blinded into irrationality by their own absurd loyalty that they seem to have forgotten why they're democrats and what the core purpose of democracy itself is. They are being so emotional and resentful of the other candidate that they have lost sight of why they're going through this process. They seem willing to sacrifice their own self-interest just to make a statement, prove a point and teach a lesson. The only point they're making is that if there is one argument against democracy, it is that there are always going to be irrational people who are willing to vote against their own interests.

As far as Clinton supporters are concerned, this kind of behavior may be rooted in the candidate's own history and pattern of behavior. Loyalty is important to the Clintons. This blogger would submit that that's why Bill Clinton is out there working so hard to begin with: to pay Hillary back for sticking up for him after the Lewinsky affair and appear to historians deserving of her past support when he was in trouble.

And for some Clinton supporters, loyalty is more important than country. James Carville thought it was appropriate to liken Bill Richardson to Judas who sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver when he endorsed Barack Obama and reiterated his incongruous biblical analogy on CNN by saying that Richardson was being "disloyal" - not to the country, but to the Clintons. The idea is that when President Clinton selected Richardson for various cabinet posts, he didn't do it based on a genuine interest to select the best person to serve the country. Carville seems to believe that Clinton picked Richardson to pay him a political favor, for which Richardson's highly respectable service to the country wasn't an adequate payback. Carville thinks Richardson should pay back by supporting Hillary Clinton's run for office regardless of who he believes is best for the country. Since Carville was an insider during the Clinton years, why should we doubt when he tries to teach us how things were done in the Clinton White House?

No one goes against the Clinton family, Carville believes. This may also be why Joseph Wilson continuously and unconditionally supports Sen. Clinton just one day after she makes up a story about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia in the 1990s. It's plausible to believe one not remembering something that happened. But it's nearly impossible for one to remember something that never happened anywhere or on any trip. She didn't "misspoke" or "misstate;" she lied. What more is she supposed to do to get criticized?

The parliamentary elections were held in Iran two weeks ago where hundreds of reformist and moderate candidates were barred from running. Nonetheless, Iranians showed up at the polls in millions and voted for the best possible options. While they protested the process and deemed it fundamentally flawed, most of them understood that acting on their self-interest is ultimately every citizen's main responsibility on election day. The fact that here in the United States with just about the most rigorous and free democratic nomination process, there are those voters who are willing to go to the ballet box and vote against their own interest is really quite a shame. The mentality is, "if I don't get my best choice, I'm going to pick my worst."

If this is how some want to exercise democracy, that's fine. But they will have no legitimate right to show up at war rallies three years after McCain's election and complain that they deserve better. When it comes to picking a president in a democracy, we never deserve any better. What we get is always what we deserve.