Wednesday, February 27, 2008

(1) Should Clinton Concede/(2) Civility As A Central Issue

It's become fairly common to hear people saying that Clinton should concede, for the good of the party. But I don't think that's true. She still has a good chance to win, and things are close enough that folks in states that haven't voted yet deserve their say. And HRC deserves her shot at convincing them.

What Clinton should do--must do--is this: stop going negative.

Which, as I've noted before, doesn't necessarily mean: stop criticizing her opponent.

Competition and honest, civil debate do not hurt the country or the party. What has poisoned our politics is viciousness. This is, of course, not to say that one can't be critical of one's opponent. Obama is doing this--among so many other things--just about exactly right. His claims about Clinton's and his own health care plans was right on the money. Basically: they're very similar and both are good; I think mine is better and here's why, but reasonable people can disagree once the discussion gets to this level. (One can almost hear the silent but implied: and, of course, I could be wrong.) This is the way reasonable, sensible people discuss issues. This is how agreement is reached and progress is made. This is how people disagree in a way that does not alienate or cause hard feelings. Do things the other way and you get people's backs up, and then agreement is all but impossible. Once people get angry with each other, they become unable and unwilling to be objective. Discussion and inquiry turn into debate and argument. And, as we know, once it gets personal, once it turns into a battle rather than an attempt to find the right answer, people become virtually immovable.

Now, if Clinton is unwilling to be civil and reasonable, then she should drop out. But it's important that we be clear about the reasons: it's not competition we should fear, but the divisiveness that's plagued our politics for the past fifteen years, especially for the last seven. This is, of course, to say that Clinton should drop out unless she is willing to be more like Obama. But that's because Obama is getting this right--and that is one of the things that has so many people so excited about his candidacy. He realizes that the penumbra of viciousness that surrounds so much of our political discourse is not (as some are wont to assert) a useful and essential component or byproduct of democracy. Rather it is inessential and pernicious. There is simply no substitute for respect and good will. Without them, fruitful disagreement and discussion are virtually impossible.

That is to say: Clinton should stay in the race--but only if she can keep it clean.


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

She can't beat him at his own game. She's a fighter, and makes Nixon look mellow.

And even silver-tongued Bill couldn't criticize Obama without the wrath of the proletariat coming down on him.

Whatever Obama's vulnerabilities on the issues [an ambiguous history on Israel, his Afrocentric church, his vote against legal protection for babies who survive abortions], she can't win by questioning him without seeming bitchy or alienating a core party constituency.

And the press won't ask either. Mike Huckabee faced more hostile questioning on the Bible than Obama ever will about the "Black Ethics" of his church.

Funny thing is, if the Democrats hadn't ducked debating on Fox News Channel, Hillary might have got them to ask Obama the tough questions and become the nominee. But in 2008, Obama is the perfect storm: everything that possibly could have broken his way, has.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, even ignoring all the other highly dubious claims you make above:

There's a difference between being tough/a fighter and being nasty and divisive. I've got no problem with disagreement, even heated disagreement. But inordinate nastiness is helping to ruin this country.

Now, Clinton is not worse than most folks in D.C. In fact, she's probably about average or better. Thing is, average for D.C. anymore is bad.

Even if we were to grant the veridicality of the wildest, most paranoid anti-Obama fantasies, that wouldn't change the fact that Obama is right about the importance of working for a civil tone in Washington.

Nobody's demanding that everybody agree with everybody else. But it's possible to disagree without ridiculing, and without calling the honesty and intelligence of one's opponents into question.

The really hard thing to believe here is that these are controversial points.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Nothing dubious there. Walk the walk, mate.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Good one.

I know you are, what am I?

6:36 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Form meets function.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

What I meant was:

I'm rubber and you're glue...

9:56 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

This discussion proves the limited utility of civility as an essential goal and an unmitigated good. It in microcosm is what has happened in Washington since at least the ascension of Newt Gingrich to the Speakership in 1994. On one hand, you have a polite, rational side (WS, the Democrats); on the other, you have a side more concerned with winning than anything else (TVD, the Republicans), even the national interest. See where that's gotten us.

Hence my refusal to refrain from calling bullshit what it is, even if that might offend TVD's virgin ears. Obeisance to civility hasn't worked, no matter how much I would prefer that it had. I've turned the other cheek enough times, just to have it metaphorically slapped again by "Christians". No more.

What Republicans mean by 'civility' is agreeing with them - or at least agreeing not to criticize their proposals in any strong terms. Yet they remain free to use Newt's lexicon and call us pathetic, etc. They also continue to take license to cozy up to the wingnut media ranters who are everywhere.

Note to TVD: I'm so glad to meet your expectations on this topic. So, please, go ahead and say something insulting because, after all, I started it.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, you met my expectations, and right on schedule.

Nice gratuitous shot at Christians, too. Well done.

4:14 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

Not a shot at Christians - rather a shot at "Christians". Completely normal that you would choose to miss the obvious intent of my quotations. Maybe they sting you, maybe not.

9:51 PM  

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