Sunday, August 7, 2016

I've heard Chris Matthews...

...say more than once, "Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line."

I have to think he would agree that the parties have flipped in that respect this year. While the GOP had a free-for-all that resulted in about a third of their voters falling in love with a demagogue, the Democrats had a coronation (albeit a surprisingly contested one).

So the field was cleared -- almost -- for Hillary Clinton in 2016. One by one, prominent Democrats proclaimed they were "ready for Hillary." Is that such a bad thing? Or is that what political parties are supposed to do?

Some people seem to think, instead, that there's some nefarious plot to "install" Mrs. Clinton in the White House. Are they right?

I'm picking up on a sentiment out there that the Democratic Party, in particular, is "hand-picking" its candidates for office and then "ramming" them down everyone's throats. Here are three examples:

1. Bernie Sanders and his followers complained that the Democratic primaries were somehow "rigged" in favor of Mrs. Clinton. The existence of the party's superdelegates, for example, was cited as evidence.

2. At the Democratic convention President Obama "threw" Rahm Emanuel "under the bus" while Toni Preckwinkle sat next to former President Bill Clinton. "Aha!" they exclaimed. "The fix is in! Rahm is out and Preckwinkle is in."

3. Yesterday someone told me that Obama traded his endorsement of Hillary in 2016 for her willingness to "step aside" in 2008. (At least I think that's what he said; he's deleted the Tweets since then.)

Where do I begin?

How about with that famous quote by the first Mayor Daley, "We don't want nobody nobody sent"? Or, in other words, we'll pick the slate of candidates and you either vote for them or don't.

Is that wrong? I submit that it is not.

One of the main purposes of a political party is to identify and recruit qualified candidates. They should:

1. Be able to do the job they're running for;

2. Agree with most of what the party stands for; and

3. Be able to win.

(When asked who would be the wisest Republican choice, William F. Buckley answered, “The wisest choice would be the one who would win. No sense running Mona Lisa in a beauty contest. I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win. If you could convince me that Barry Goldwater could win, I’d vote for him.”)

So let's go back to my original three examples.

1. First of all, until last year, Bernie Sanders wasn't even a Democrat. Is it really too much to ask that the standard-bearer of your party first be a member of your party? I know, I know, Trump wasn't necessarily a member of the Republican Party, either. And that's where superdelegates come in. According to Wikipedia (my emphasis):

Further soul-searching took place among [Democratic Party] leaders, who argued that the pendulum had swung too far in the direction of primary elections over insider decision-making, with one May 1981 California white paper declaring that the Democratic Party had "lost its leadership, collective vision and ties with the past," resulting in the nomination of unelectable candidates. A new 70-member commission headed by Governor of North Carolina Jim Hunt was appointed to further refine the Democratic Party's nomination process, attempting to balance the wishes of rank-and-file Democrats with the collective wisdom of party leaders and to thereby avoid the nomination of insurgent candidates exemplified by the liberal McGovern or the anti-Washington conservative Carter and lessening the potential influence of single-issue politics in the selection process.

Or, in other words, avoid the nomination of insurgent candidates like . . . Donald Trump. Don't you think the Republicans wished they had superdelegates this year?

As a Democrat, I'm relieved the party has superdelegates. We don't need a hostile takeover of our party (like the Republicans) by a candidate like Bernie Sanders (or Trump) who can't win the general. All the best intentions of Bernie would come to naught if Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio were sitting in the White House come January.

2. Has Toni Preckwinkle been "anointed" to succeed Rahm Emanuel as mayor of Chicago? I don't know; maybe. What if all the Democratic leaders got together and agreed that Rahm hasn't done nearly as good a job as they had hoped? What if they think Ms. Preckwinkle could do a better one? Wouldn't they be derelict in their duties if they didn't push for this change? If Preckwinkle runs for the Democratic nomination next time and you don't like it, vote for her opponent in the primary. Or vote for her opponent in the general.

3. Did Hillary "step aside" in 2008 to make way for Barack Obama? And did he agree in turn to grease the wheels for her in 2016? I don't think so. If you'll remember, he beat her fair and square in the primaries. Like Hillary this year, he arrived at the convention with enough delegates to win the nomination outright -- it wasn't really contested. And think about it: would you take a "deal" that didn't pay off for eight years? I wouldn't.

Now, did President Obama help clear the field this year in return for Bill Clinton's support in 2012? Sure! Wouldn't you? He was in a tough reelection campaign and could use all the help he could get. (She was also the most qualified Democrat for the job.) Did it prevent a wild card like Bernie Sanders from coming in and almost upsetting Clinton? No. And if Sanders had won enough primaries this year the superdelegates would have felt obligated -- just like they did with Obama in 2008 -- to "feel the Bern." (Thank God he didn't.)

So, do political parties indeed put forward the best candidates they can? Yes. Is it okay? I think so.

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