Monday, February 11, 2008

Electability

Electability. It matters. It does you no good to vote for the "best" candidate for your views in a primary if that candidate will then lose to the other party's candidate in the general election, a candidate far more removed from your views than another candidate in your own primary who, while not as good a fit to your views, is nonetheless more electable than your first choice. Winning elections matters.

Obviously, I'm referring to Obama versus Clinton. I think Obama has a far better chance at winning the general election than Clinton. I don't buy the argument that the right-wing smear machine will somehow change this, bringing him down to the same level as Clinton in polls of independents and Republicans. Sure, he will be smeared, but sorry, propeganda can only do so much. People have pretty much solidified their view of Clinton and of Obama. Many Republicans have already decided they like and would vote for Obama. Many more have already decided it would be a cold day in Hell before they'd ever vote for Clinton. A blitz of negative ads is not likely to change that sentiment much. In fact, it would probably be even less effective than normal against Obama simply because of the kind of campaign and rhetoric he uses - it probably would not stick to him and it would make the Republican candidate look bad - the meme is that Obama is above the hyper-partisanship and that people are tired of the hyper-partisanship, and so the smear machine may just end up helping him more than hurting him.

Personally, I think smears won't matter much simply because I don't think the GOP can smear itself out of the hole it has dug for itself. It certainly didn't work in 2006.

The simple fact is, a huge number of people irrationally hate Hillary Clinton. They hate her today, they've hated her for years, they will hate her on election day. Most of them are Republicans. Many are independents. Some are Democrats as well. This irrational hatred is absent with Obama. He overwhelmingly wins independents. He even wins some Republicans. With that sort of advantage, there's no way the GOP could beat him in November. Why would you not want to put such a sure-win in front of the voters in November? Why even give the GOP the slightest hope they could win?

I'm not saying Clinton could not win. She might win if she's nominated. But why take that chance? Right now, hatred of her is about the only thing that could rally the base of the GOP to the polls in November. They sure as hell don't much like McCain. I think with an Obama candidacy, the rabid base would probably just stay home. They might still do so with a Clinton candidacy, but I think hatred of her would bring a lot of them to the polls. Independents also seem to like McCain a lot, which is where elections are won. Again, why take that chance?

I'm not saying this is the only reason to vote for Obama - it is, in fact, not the main reason I like him - though it is a very important one. I'm not saying I don't think Clinton would be a good president or that she couldn't win. I am pointing out that voting for her in the primary won't do any of us any good if it leads to President McCain.

3 comments:

The Barefoot Bum said...

The counter-argument is simple: Kerry. Gore. Neither of whom were Clinton. Both of whom (especially Kerry) were chosen in no small part because they were "electable". Both of them seemingly impregnable to the right-wing smear propaganda. Gore did win, and Kerry would have won but for that lying smear propaganda (and the commercial media's active collusion) in promoting outrageous lies... and had not intelligent people fallen for those lies.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

DBB said...

Kerry was a rather weak, uninspiring candidate - at no time, before or after the smear campaign got into full swing against him, did you hear Republicans say they were moved almost to tears by his speeches or that they would actually vote for him.

Part of the problem also is that Democrats as a party seem to be pretty poor at selecting candidates for "electability" - they seem to think that means acting like a Republican and having conservative views while trying to disavow the views of "the base" even where those views represent 70%+ of the population.

I think the same mistake is being made by some who think Clinton is more electable because she is more centrist than Obama - as they totally discount actual polling data that shows the opposite to be the case.

This is not just a case of saying "anyone but Clinton" - in fact, out of all of the candidates BUT Obama, I think she'd have the best chances in the November election. It is a combination of the fact that Republicans hate Clinton AND the fact that there are a significant number of Republicans who like, and would cross party lines to vote for, Obama.

Kerry's problem (aside from his poor campaign skills) was not the smear as much as the fact that he simply did not appeal to Republicans.

But pundocracy aside, the poll numbers, the actual data, right now show a very significant difference which supports the anecdotal evidence of Republicans liking Obama - he would beat McCain by a HUGE margin, whereas Clinton, if she beat McCain, would do so by a slim margin. I favor the Powell doctrine - overwhelming victory - I'd rather not risk defeat. If Obama gets the nomination, I KNOW he will win. I'm that sure of it. With Clinton, she may win, but she may lose. And it isn't rocket science to figure out why - it is simple. Republicans hate Clinton and really like Obama, even the ones who actually wouldn't vote for him.

hedera said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who was worried about that irrational hatred of Hillary Clinton. I've been thinking more or less what you said, ever since she began to campaign; she'd probably be a competent president (she COULDN'T be worse than Dubya), but could she get elected, and if she's the nominee, my God, how nasty will the campaign be? The Swiftboat campaign will be nothing to it.

I don't understand this irrational hatred, but I sure feel it's there; but talking about it makes me sound like a nutcase conspiracy theorist.

And as you said - Obama just doesn't spark the negative response. In fact he raises a positive response.