"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Fun the morning after

(Augmented on 3/7. New text in bold.)

Since this is a presidential election year, I'm posting a lot more often about politics than I usually do. I know that many conservatives are tempted to sit out this November, and I understand. I disagree with them, of course; I'm going to vote for McCain, for reasons I've explained before. But I want to urge conservatives, indeed Republicans generally, to enjoy themselves as hugely as they are being enabled to by how the Democrats are doing.

Last night, the Republicans had the best primary outcome they could hope for. McCain clinched the nomination, prompting Huckabee to do what he said he would do: drop out gracefully when the math became clear. But more important and less predictably, the Democratic race was extended—probably all the way to the convention. The battle will only get nastier in weeks ahead, which can only help the Republicans, who are now in the process of uniting behind the de facto nominee. Even more important than its getting nastier, however, is why and how it is getting nastier.

Hearken to a member of the chattering classes of whose person, and views, I am generally most dubious: liberal Democrat Maureen Dowd. In her NYT column this morning, she writes:

With Obama saying the hour is upon us to elect a black man and Hillary saying the hour is upon us to elect a woman, the Democratic primary has become the ultimate nightmare of liberal identity politics. All the victimizations go tripping over each other and colliding, a competition of historical guilts.

People will have to choose which of America’s sins are greater, and which stain will have to be removed first. Is misogyny worse than racism, or is racism worse than misogyny?

As it turns out, making history is actually a way of being imprisoned by history. It’s all about the past. Will America’s racial past be expunged or America’s sexist past be expunged?

As Ali Gallagher, a white Hillary volunteer in Austin told The Washington Post’s Krissah Williams: “A friend of mine, a black man, said to me, ‘My ancestors came to this country in chains; I’m voting for Barack.’ I told him, ‘Well, my sisters came here in chains and on their periods; I’m voting for Hillary.’ ”

And meanwhile, the conventional white man sits on the Republican side and enjoys the spectacle of the Democrats’ identity pileup and victim lock.

Well, I'm not a conventional white man; if I were, I'd be pursuing a demanding, unfulfilling career just because it pays more or less the amount of money that conventional people seem to expect of me. But I am very much enjoying "the spectacle of the Democrats' identity pileup and victim lock." Dowd forgot to add that when they get out of their cars, they'll be shooting themselves in the foot.

There's more: the wine track vs. the beer track. Obama wins among upscale professionals; Clinton wins among working-class whites. That's a cultural clash; those are usually bitter and always linger. Then there's the generational divide: Obama wins the young people, Clinton the retired. For the pièce de resistance, there's the Florida-Michigan cockup. On the one hand, it's "unfair" not to "make every vote count"; on the other, it's "unfair" to "change the rules in the middle of the game." Whatever. It's also likely the race will be decided by the superdelegates, the professional pols who at this point cannot escape sorting out all these intractables. If they settle on a nominee in spite of the popular vote, the cry from the losing side will be that the Democratic Party is not democratic. Yet if they settle on a nominee simply on the basis of the popular vote, they will be reduced to irrelevant rubber-stampers, which was not the role envisioned for them and will be impossible anyhow if there's any meaningful disparity between the popular vote and the elected-delegate count. Nor can the race be prettified by trying to settle it on the substantive issues; the differences thereon are not great and do not arouse the passion. Yessiree: whoever wins will win ugly.

As two wars continue and the economy sinks into the doldrums, the Democratic battle is the best hope McCain has in the fall. It is the natural outcome of how that party has been developing for the last several decades. For me, that movie is better entertainment than anything Hollywood is likely to offer between now and then. Even those conservatives who plan to sit back and hold their noses would do well to enjoy the movie for free.

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