Article: Divided They Run

From the New York Times. Too many brats and cry babies around. This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

February 6, 2008
Divided They Run
Americans have made it clear that they are fed up with partisan division. But there has been no healing in the 2008 campaign, despite many candidates’ promises. The primary season has created stark intramural divisions that pose risks for both Democrats and Republicans. And the real interparty race hasn’t even begun.

Polls of Democratic voters on Tuesday made it clear that the politics of identity — race, gender, class — was driving the contest between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. In the Republican contests, the far-right fringe is trying to maul their party’s front-runner, Senator John McCain.

Since the voting did not produce dead-certain winners, the coming contests in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, Washington and Virginia may only increase the pressure on campaigns that are more than willing to bare their fangs.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face the gargantuan task of winning over the other’s voters. While Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have few policy disputes, voter polls showed gulfs between their core supporters: men for Mr. Obama and women for Mrs. Clinton, and so on with black voters and Hispanic voters, more educated voters and less educated voters, richer and poorer, those driven by the idea of change and those looking for a candidate who cares about their problems.

Mrs. Clinton fired the first divisive shots of this campaign, and we have said before that if she is the nominee she will have to stretch herself to connect with Mr. Obama’s supporters. Many of the most passionate of them are getting involved in politics for the first time. Mr. Obama will have that same formidable challenge with Mrs. Clinton’s supporters if he wins, and an even more vexing one if he loses.

Having run on the idea of broad participation across society’s divisions, Mr. Obama’s campaign often seems to teeter on becoming a cult of personality — a feeling that the candidate and those around him do nothing to dispel. In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” on Monday, Mr. Obama’s wife, Michelle, was asked if she would work to support Mrs. Clinton if she won. “I’d have to think about that,” she replied.

Mrs. Obama quickly got back on her talking points, stressing party unity. But her unguarded answer was similar to what we heard from Obama supporters in e-mail messages that we received after endorsing Mrs. Clinton. Many of those readers said they would not bother to vote if Mr. Obama lost the nomination. That is not the way democracy is supposed to work.

Among the Republicans, as Mr. McCain has pulled ahead, he has been shrilly attacked by Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, who have said they’d rather lose the White House than have a nominee who does not pass all of their litmus tests. That is not the way democracy is supposed to work. Their claim that Mr. McCain is not a conservative (based largely on his willingness to actually talk to Democrats) is ludicrous, but it’s damaging to a party bloodied by eight years of the politics of George Bush and Karl Rove.

There has been much wrong with this campaign: too much money spent on advertising, too many soft-money donations. There is still a chance, at least, to save the race from leaving the country even more divided than in the Bush years. Any candidate, and any party, presuming to unite this country must first unite their own. That is how democracy is supposed to work.


Slate Video: Hillary’s Inner Tracy Flick


From Romney’s 2006-2-6 capitulation speech. What a manipulative comment:

”If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror,” Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.


In other news:

WASHINGTON — The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost over $685 billion in the next fiscal year. That’s already $170 billion above the $515.4 billion in Bush’s proposed budget, the largest in history (and biggest government deficit in history). How much higher will it go? Many billions, probably (that’s what always happens with Bush’s war-cost estimates).

Mr. Gates gave that estimate in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee after cautioning the panel that any estimate would be dicey, given the unpredictability of war.

“Well, a straight-line projection, Mr. Chairman, of our current expenditures would probably put the full-year cost in a strictly arithmetic approach at about $170 billion,” Mr. Gates said in response to questions from Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the head of the committee.

So, Mr. Levin pressed, “That would be a total then of $685 billion” in Pentagon spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. “Does that sound right?”

“Yes, sir,” Mr. Gates replied. “But as I indicated, I have no confidence in that figure.”

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