U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain.
I did not vote in yesterday’s Presidential primary in Kentucky. The differences between Sanders and Clinton are real, but marginal; I have some appreciation for each, but not so much that it’s worth committing my support. I appreciate that sounds strange coming from an LGM blogger, but I think this genuinely is a case in which “not a dime’s bit of difference” is true enough. They’re both fine, and I would have enthusiastically supported Sanders in the general election, just as I’ll enthusiastically support Clinton.
The long Democratic primary season, drawn out by the endless proportional division of delegates, may not end up hurting Clinton in the end. It certainly didn’t hurt Obama in 2008. It is good, however, at two things; emotional exhaustion, and generating bad arguments.
With respect to the former, the memory of 2008 is, for me, so scarring that I declined to endorse either Sanders or Clinton this time around, or really engage with any seriousness in the policy debate between them. You may recollect the endless, bitter comment threads here at LGM in 2008, waged between Clinton and Obama supporters. I wasted far, far too much time with that nonsense, and I’m simply not at a place in my life when I can do that again. And if anything, the greater prominence of social media (in my life, and in general) has made it clear that engagement this time around would have been even more exhausting. I did serve briefly, and in an extremely small capacity, as part of a group that advised Sanders on foreign policy, but more out of a commitment to the idea that any Democratic presidential candidate should have access to expertise than out of specific enthusiasm for his candidacy.
That said, friends have been lost. “Bernie or bust” advocates are making no meaningful contribution to the Democratic primary race; they’re simply helping to elect Donald Trump. And I struggle to remain friends, or continue cordial relations, with any progressive who thinks that electing Donald Trump would be a good idea. On this point I’ve been vicious on social media, and the nastiness has been returned twofold. But no great loss.
With respect to the latter, it’s not clear to me that the arguments that have emerged from the Sanders camp (and more broadly, from his supporters) are any worse than the arguments that came from Clinton supporters in 2008. Never forget the Whitey Tape, the Eeyores, the Pumas, and every other bit of nonsense that came out of the waning days of that campaign; it was truly dreadful, and probably, on balance, stupider that what’s coming out of the Sanders camp now. That said, the Clintonistas from 2008 had a better case in purely electoral terms than the Sanders folks do now; Clinton probably won the popular vote, and did not rely on caucus results to pad her delegate totals.
And the problem with both of these is that it just goes on. And on. And on. Every system for nominating a Presidential candidate sucks in its own way, but I’m hard pressed to think of a way to generate bad arguments and create emotional exhaustion that the one that the Democrats have settled on. In the last two contested cycles, we’ve effectively known who the nominee would be about a third of the way in; everything after that point is just bitter recrimination, and pundits needing to imagine ways in which the inevitable might not happen. From a political perspective there doesn’t appear to be anything particular destructive about this (at least from 2008; we’ll see about 2016), but from a personal perspective it’s just… very… difficult.
And so yeah. I just want it to be over. I don’t think Sanders needs to drop out (the Jesse Jackson 1988 campaign seems instructive here) but I agree with Paul that Bernie needs to start prepping his camp for the inevitable.