Why does it take a former Sportscenter anchor to say this?
Why does Keith Olbermann have to abandon his objective journalist post for a full ten minutes to say what should be spilling out of the mouths of Democratic Party leaders everywhere? Where is Howard Dean on this? Where is Al Gore? Where is Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, or Bill Richardson? And John Edwards, who spent his entire campaign self-righteously shouting at people to “Show a little backbone!” ironically can’t seem to muster enough of his own to get off the fence.
There’s a school of thought– and an excuse used by these super-superdelegates– that they need to remain neutral so that someone can moderate, in the event that this race goes all the way to the convention. But why allow it to go that far? Why continue a divisive and damaging race where one candidate has already amassed insurmountable leads in pledged delegates, states, and popular vote? Why sit back and watch while anybody– even Democratic Party royalty like the Clintons– throws the kitchen sink at your eventual nominee?
When the New York Times published a story that hinted, with no published evidence, at an affair between John McCain and a telecommunications lobbyist, Republicans didn’t sit on the fence and say, “Let’s see where this goes.” Nearly every last one of them, all the way up to President Bush, circled the wagons around John McCain and fired back at the New York Times, turning the story into a referendum on the paper’s ethical standards. And already, just weeks later, the would-be bombshell– the attempted kneecapping of John McCain’s candidacy– has been largely forgetten.
But this is the exact opposite of the way Democrats have handled their national frontrunner. Frightened either by the newness of Obama’s politics or the color of his skin, Democratic leaders have stood by spinelessly with a “Let’s see where this goes” attitude. Let’s see if these subliminally racist tactics might work against a black candidate in a general election. Let’s see if accusing the guy with the unorthodox name of being Muslim will stick. Let’s see if all these excited new voters will still love Obama after they see a picture of him in a turban. Let’s sit back and watch, as Hillary Clinton plays the part of the devious Republican candidate with no moral boundaries, and see if it’s possible to choke off this Obama movement in its prime. Because if it’s possible to do it now, it’s possible to do it in November, and the last thing we want to do is nominate a candidate who might lose.
Of course, the fallacy in this line of thinking is that every candidate who will ever enter a race might lose. Every candidate has weaknesses and vulnerabilities, but historically the candidate’s own party has been the one defending, not exploiting them. It’s the equivalent of taking a lead pipe to the front legs of your prize thoroughbred race horse just to see if he can handle it– you know, just in case it happens during the race.
Meanwhile, while party leaders twiddle their thumbs, the percentage of Americans who believe Barack Obama is a Muslim has increased from 8% to 13% in the last month– a number no doubt aided by Hillary Clinton’s assurances to the public that Obama is not a Muslim… as far as she knows. You can almost see the wheels turning in the heads of the super-superdelegates, who have collectively and shamefully done nothing to combat the Muslim smears: “Before we pick Barack Obama as our nominee, let’s see how high that number goes.”
The other fallacy in the Democratic Party leadership’s wait-and-see attitude is that after Obama has successfully been stopped, after the Clintons have finally discovered which button to push that stops the movement, after they have wrestled the nomination away from the candidate with more votes, more states, more money, more nationwide enthusiasm, and unprecedented momentum… then what? The Democratic Party will finally have its proof that its seemingly invincible juggernaut can be stopped. But it will be left with nothing more than a chunk of Kryptonite, a deeply fractured party, and a completely unelectable nominee.
Democrats who bemoan a party that seems to have a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory– a party that has lost five of the last seven presidential elections– need look no further than their party’s leadership. The Democratic Party has every conceivable financial and political advantage in this election, and yet its leadership is terrified of losing to the point of paralysis. It’s time for people like Howard Dean, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, and John Edwards to make a decision. If they’re going to subvert the will of the people and back Hillary Clinton, they need to do it right now, not in August, in order to allow as much time as possible for party healing. Otherwise, it’s time for them to get off the fence, circle the wagons around Barack Obama, and start pushing back against the kind of subliminal attacks and viral smear campaigns that cripple candidates, instead of allowing them to build resonance and continue from inside their own party.