I didn't watch the debate tonight. I just couldn't do it, and I really couldn't put Annie through it. So we watched a Sopranos episode from a Netflix DVD, then the end of a Futurama episode on Comedy Central... and at 9.30 I came in here to start reading about the debate, which was still going on. It evidently got very nasty very quickly, a dynamic that I think always favors Hillary Clinton. That said, when I actually watched this seven-minute chunk, I thought Obama got the better of the exchange. But I'm biased, of course.
What I think is happening in the race right now is that the Clintons--and henceforth that's how I'll be referring to the Senator's campaign--are trying to position Obama's likely win in South Carolina this Saturday as somehow less important because, well, half the Democrats there are African-American and of course Those People will vote for the African-American candidate. Then when the real (read: whiter) states vote on February 5, we'll see what's what. The bloody hell of it is that this probably will work, because it's how the media thinks too--witness the quadrennial Republican lament, rarely commented upon, that the only reason presidential elections are close is that African-Americans vote Democrat at something like a 90 percent rate. Again, the implication is that these votes somehow count less, which I don't think is how it's supposed to work.
In the comment section on one of those sites linked to the right of this page, I just read the following:
The best thing for the Democrats is to nominate Hillary, watch her get whipped,dump the Clinton Reptile Farm out of the Democratic party and get on with building a real coalition. Plus, we get to watch the Republicans try and fail to deal with their recession plus Iraq. Four miserable years, but better a vaccination now, and 20 years of power later than four agonizing years of lies, triangulation, sex scandals and the certainty of 12 more Republican years afterwards.
Somewhat to my shame, I found myself nodding along with this. It's very possible that the next four years will represent a big fecal sandwich for whoever emerges in November, to the terrible detriment of both that individual and her or his party. And at this point I just want the Clintons gone. In the same article or another one on the same site, I wrote that one of the worst things about this political year has been being faced with the realization that, ten years after so many of us fought to save Bill Clinton's presidency, his opponents (vile as they were) substantially got it right in their characterization of him as a man who would do and say anything to hold onto power.
But the "screw it, we'll pick things up in four years" attitude is dangerous far beyond the point of being tenable for a lot of reasons. First, there's the judiciary; if Hillary Clinton is nominated, I think she'll lose, but her strongest appeal might well be to campaign explicitly on the dangers of what would happen if the right-wingers got a working Supreme Court majority. Second, there's agenda-setting and federal rule-making: I don't like that this is true, but one must assume that any Democrat--even one as personally odious as Clinton--will be better on environmental regulation, budgeting, the implementation of social policy and a million other things than any Republican. (Prove me wrong, McCain... prove me wrong.) Finally, a Republican successor to Bush would be far too likely to cement and institutionalize the perversions and distortions of our governance traditions--the Executive SuperDuperPowers, Addington's Monster--that this disaster of an administration has embraced.
And yet it's tough, for me evidently impossible, to get past the repellent messenger to the generally palatable message. As in 2000, I find myself almost glad that my vote as a New York state resident is so meaningless.