Friday, April 27, 2007

this is as good as they're going to get

Now that the first debate between the Democratic candidates for president is behind us, the blogosphere has been treated to a massive array of posts, counter-posts and arguments trashing one candidate's statements and performance while supporting the statements and performance of their own. And while this phenomenon has not been entirely unexpected, it is also disturbing and quite frankly puzzling.

I find it amazing how many Democrats and progresssives are willing to overlook the blemishes and flaws in their favorite candidate's positions. I see supporters of specific candidates defending their candidates' choice of centrist positions and rhetoric on everything from the Occupation of Iraq to healthcare to impeachment, and I'm amazed. I refuse to single any candidates out specifically, though certainly Hillary's stubborn refusal to call her war vote a "mistake" and centrist positions on civil rights issues, and Obama's tip-toeing and often capitulating rhetoric towards the administration on Iraq and a number of other issues do come to mind.

I've got news for people: this is as good as it's going to get with these people. If you ever intend to hold a candidate's feet to the fire--even your favorite, darling candidate--you MUST speak now or forever hold your peace. And quite frankly, though some are indeed better than others, I haven't seen any candidate SO devoid of flaws and SO progressive that I would be willing to defend them unto the death at this point and promise with undying affection my well-considered vote.

Why? Because this isn't just a Democratic primary race we're in right now: this is early in a Democratic primary race. It's a truism that the base is key in a primary election. But what often goes under-reported these days is that, while this election is unusual in the intensity of the attention given to candidates at this early date, it is still very early of even the primary election cycle. And what that means is that while the traditional media is providing cursory coverage of the race, pretty much only the Democratic activist base is paying a lot of attention at this point.

When you, the Democratic activist blogger, hear a candidate on our side speak at this point, realize that they are pandering to YOU right now. This is their best effort to earn YOUR support. Not the support of a Republican; not the support of an undecided; not the support of a moderate Democratic; not the support of your run-of-the-mill progressive. No, right here, right now, they are attempting to engage the support of YOU--the activist progressive base paying an almost unhealthy attention to all matters political.

If you don't like everything you're hearing out of a candidate right now; if you're not completely comfortable with a candidate's progressive language, credentials and policy positions, it's time to get worried RIGHT NOW. Everything they say and do now is their wedding proposal to YOU, down on their knees and on their best behavior in their best Sunday clothes. Just like in marriage, it's only going to get uglier from here from the moment you say "yes"--and unlike in marriage, you don't have the option of divorce.

Because once the primary race comes down to its last two months, the primary race itself will come down to swaying undecided, average Democrats. And once a candidate has taken the Democratic nomination, we're stuck with him or her for better or for worse, 'til death do us part--because the alternative is unthinkable. Papering over a candidate's weaknesses and centrist flaws now is as stupid as getting engaged to a lover thinking that you'll change his/her behavior once you're married, or that he/she will be more faithful to you once there's a wedding ring involved. It ain't gonna happen.

So be discerning. Play hard to get. Be choosy. Stop papering over weaknesses and pledging undying loyalties.

Because this is as good as they're going to get

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