Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 9, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THEN vs. NOW....Is a long primary campaign a blessing or a curse? As long as things don't get too negative, Steve Benen offers a reason to think it's a good thing:

I recently went back and watched some of the early Democratic debates and I was impressed with just how far the field has come. Each of them are better, sharper, and quicker than they were last summer, and that's in large part because they've been pushing each other so hard.

That's what I would have guessed, but it's interesting to hear that it holds up in a side-by-side comparison.

Kevin Drum 5:26 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Comments

She's a Witch! BURN HER! BURN HER!

Posted by: R.L. on January 9, 2008 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I can think of one good reason why a longer campaign might not be such a good idea. I'll reproduce a post I made from a previous thread.

We may be just about ready to enter the ugliest food fight in Democratic politics.

Jesse Jackson Jr, who is Obama's national campaign co-chair, has basically gone on record openly sneering at Hillary's tears. The idea is that she was tearing up over her appearance when she would tear up over, to use his example, Katrina.

Now Jackson is of course using Katrina here as a symbol to African-Americans of their neglect.

In short, he's pitting the sympathies of women against those of African-Americans. There's no other way to parse it that I can see.

This is really, really going to marginalize the Obama campaign. You don't trash the sentiments of women just so that you can appeal to African-Americans without losing just about any election or nomination process.

And the sheer ugliness of an internecine battle over who deserves greater sympathy, women or African Americans, cannot end well.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 9, 2008 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

I say mostly a good thing, as long as the race/sex card isn't too overplayed (and as long as both candidates refuse spending limits) I would rather have two candidates out there talking about the democratic message on places that otherwise would be ignored until October, if visited at all.

Posted by: northzax on January 9, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the long campaign will push Hillary more and more to the left? I seemed to notice a lot more progressive talk in Obama's speech last night, suggesting that he is going to go after Hillary as a Centrist.

That, of course, would be a good thing. I would like Hillary a lot more if she had a sane position on Iraq. If the long primary forces her to promise to get the troops out sooner and with specific time tables, it's a great thing for the country.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on January 9, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

I hope Obama will put a stop to Jackson's foolishness right quick.

The group of Dem candidates compared to the group of GOP candidates has always appeared in start contrast to me, all the way back through 1976. No contest.

In fact, the leaders who filter up through the Democratic ranks in all branches of government seem superior to me. It comes across as much more of a meritocracy and less a case of a small group of rich guys selecting somebody to run for office or fill a position.

Posted by: little ole jim on January 9, 2008 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Long campaigns are a terrific thing. They cost bazillions of dollars making sure that terrific fundraising skills are more important than anything else. They allow candidates to be placed under a microscope that examines everything about them except their stance on the issues. And best of all, it means that 9 months before the general election, the candidacy can be decided by the very first caucus in the very first state based on views about events from two to three years before the general election occurs ensuring relevancy.

We should make campaigns even longer!

Posted by: jerry on January 9, 2008 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

"cannot end well." Fred Thompson for the win!?

Posted by: jerry on January 9, 2008 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, the candidates have become sharper debaters during a long, debate-filled campaign. That would be great if a President's primary function were debating.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 9, 2008 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

It's the same principle as "how to get to Carnegie Hall"--practice, practice, practice.

Posted by: Mazurka on January 9, 2008 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

We need more debates.

That last one seemed "pregnant" to me - i.e. about to start really producing some results, distinctions, and unique voices.

It would be nice to have a few more, so we hear less talk about how they have differences and want to make change, and more about what their differences actually are and how they will make change.

Posted by: Jimm on January 9, 2008 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to see each side have a rhetoric-free debate. Nothing but policy discussion. Anytime that anyone says anything remotely like propaganda or pandering, the moderator gets to slam a button that makes a deafening "BUZZ!" noise.

Posted by: Tom Veil on January 9, 2008 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

Instead of more "debates", group them in a collective brainstorming session with a single task to solve within an hour or so without interference from a moderator. The candidates who have better ideas and are better leaders will be apparent by the end, as will their true personalities.

Posted by: AJ on January 9, 2008 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Anytime that anyone says anything remotely like propaganda or pandering, the moderator gets to slam a button that makes a deafening "BUZZ!" noise.

Good idea - and lets go one step further...when the candidate goes over on their allotted time, an annoying, automated, monotone voice starts saying "Stop talking...I'm bored...stop talking...I'm bored" - you know - like they have at the Ig-Nobel Prizes "ceremony."

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 9, 2008 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Please God don't let my life get so lame that I'm spending time going back to look at old primary debates...blog commenting is lame enough.

Posted by: Don on January 9, 2008 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like the august NY Times, no doubt surprised in a very unpleasant way by the outcome in NH, simply can't contain its Hillary hatred, and has to find a way of pissing on her parade.

I'm sure their re-opening the investigation into Whitewater as we speak.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 9, 2008 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

There are two problems with this argument: first, if Democratic candidates are becoming sharper campaigners, then so are their opponents. And second, as ex-liberal points out, there are many more important things for candidates to be practicing instead of their debating skills.

Posted by: Geoffbr on January 9, 2008 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Calm down, nepeta. I already saw the Brad Blog, but instead of setting my locks alight, I went to the NH Secretary of State site. I can't be sure - the .pdf keeps crashing my browser, but it looks to me like NH uses optical scanners, which are paper ballots, and available for recounts. I'm not even certain that the optical scanners are Diebold. I will follow up tomorrow by actually calling the SoS office.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 9, 2008 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

I am not worried about the politicians coming together after a bitter primary season. I am worried about voters so turned off by stupid comment made by a supporter of one candidate or the other that they would never consider voting for that candidate again.

On balance I think a long process is good for all of us. I think Hillary, in particular, is going to personally benefit from a long season because it will separate her from her bubble. We saw a glimpse in New Hampshire. She is beginning to figure out who she is, and she is probably not be the person her handlers want her to think she is. Already we have discovered that there is a whole lot more to Hillary than I thought was there before last weekend. My guess is the real Hillary is much, much better than the Team Clinton constructed image. It will take a few more weeks for all of us, including Hillary, to figure that one out for sure.

As to Obama, a longer process will give all of us a chance to decide if he is tough enough for the big job. I have read his books and like his intellect and instincts, but I really wonder if he has the grit he needs to be President. A longer primary season will give us all a chance to find out.

My hope is they don't decide to go negative. They will have opportunity enough to prove themselves without attacking the other candidate.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 9, 2008 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the Times article was pretty good, although it was written before Jackson Jr. started slinging the cheap hash on MSNBC.

A big disappointment, that.

Posted by: Lucy on January 9, 2008 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Put me down in the camp that thinks that long campaigns are a waste of everyone's time, money and attention. Long campaigns guarantee that money plays a big role in who gets to be a candidate. It guarantees that coverage is going to be a beauty contest rather than substantive; It guarantees that good people won't even enter the fray.

IMHO, candidates should be polishing their leadership and executive skills and values in whatever positions they fill BEFORE they run for national office. The notion that they find their "voice" while campaigning and this is a good thing? Bah! They should be a known commodity before they hit the campaign trail.

We have had two WHs in a row now that have been criticized for governing as if they were campaigning still. What do we expect?

Posted by: PTate in MN on January 9, 2008 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the Times article was pretty good,

Well, it does seem to me that an editorial about the NH primary might at least start with some kind of congratulations, even if somewhat perfunctory, of the winner -- most especially when it was so very dramatic and surprising.

Not a single word like this in the editorial.

And who, besides the NY Times, has made a commentary like this about the primary:

Mrs. Clinton ran an angry campaign in New Hampshire, and polls showed that voters noticed.

I defy you to find anyone else but the editorial board of the NY Times who believes that the outcome in NH had to do in any important way with Hillary running an "angry" campaign. We read elsewhere about Hillary's tears, and her debate performance, and a number of other things that may have inspired women to vote for her in great numbers as they did. Yet who besides the Times describes the underlying theme as "angry"?

Really, it's hard to look at the Times outlier response as anything other than the boiling over of Hillary hatred in the face of her unexpected win -- all the more unseemly because it was the voters counter-reaction to that very sort of uncontrolled hatred against Hillary that seemed so much to fuel her comeback.

It's always useful to remember that the NY Times has always had it in for the Clintons, even though they have pretended to patch up their differences over the years. (No doubt Bill's attack on the press in NH stung the Times, given their sordid history of passing along right wing lies about the Clintons).

Posted by: frankly0 on January 9, 2008 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Well frankly 0, Hillary did run at least an indignant, if not angry, campaign. (My perceptions pretty much aligned with the Times. Scary.) Why should the editorial congratulate the winner, even if it is New Hampshire? Now that would be unseemly.

I'm glad Hillary got called out on her MLK and LBJ remarks, although I'm willing to take the charitable view that she simply expressed herself very badly. I would expect the same disdain for the junk offered by Obama's campaign today.

I'll grant you there's no love in that editorial for Hil.

Posted by: Lucy on January 9, 2008 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

Debates are for slick talkers and fast-on-their-feet trial lawyers. I'd rather the candidates just stated their positions on web sites and displayed their personalities on Jay Leno and Oprah.

Posted by: Luther on January 9, 2008 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

There is nothing detrimental in a long campaign, even if it gets nasty (which it will). At the end of the run, they kiss, and decide to make the other the VP candidate, thus healing the split.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on January 10, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

The season is too long by far. I am already sick of it. A six month primary/election season with public financing is what I would like.

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