29 March 2008

How Generous of You

Senator Obama appeared to gently chide some of his supporters today by saying for himself that Senator Clinton should continue her presidential campaign for as long as she likes, or at least until the end of the primary season. Despite his chivalrous sentiment, Democrats continue to talk about pressuring Clinton to quit in order to unify the party, which suffers, they suppose, from a divisive campaign.

I would like Clinton to quit because I think she'd make a bad President and set a worse precedent for dynastic politics in this country in the bargain. But I would never tell her to quit, nor suggest, nor hint that she do so, because I disagree with the chief premise of her Democratic hecklers: that party unity is the highest good. My position remains the same whether we're talking about Clinton or Obama or Nader or Ron Paul. If any politician is convinced that he or she is the best or only person for the job, it doesn't make sense to step aside because one faction of Americans prefers someone else. Rivals within a party presumably contest an election due to differences in policy and principle. Why should the loser acquiesce in policies and principles that they presume to be detrimental to the country? Wouldn't that mean that all the sharp differences the loser drew in campaign speeches were only rhetoric that gilded mere ambition, and at that an ambition so mere that it capitulates immediately at the word of a fragment of the American people? That may have been true in some cases, and may prove true this time, but haven't there been times when someone who lost in the primaries might have made a better President than the winner? It would be one thing if the entire electorate had a chance to winnow out the field, but because of the vagaries of state election laws, we can't claim that a primary loser has been rejected by the people as a whole, so why should the losers act as if they have? To do so means that party comes before the people for partisan politicians. On the other hand, we could assume that when candidates withdraw for the good of the party, they prove that they were unworthy of our support all along.

As far as I know, Ron Paul was the only major-party primary candidate to be asked regularly if he would run as a third-party candidate, since he had done that in the past. Wouldn't it be refreshing if some of the others, the front-runners included, were asked the same question, and some of them answered, "yes?"

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