I’ve stayed away from “Democratic primary” stuff in this blog until now. Mostly because the election in California is just over a week away and I still have no freaking idea who I’m voting for. But I’ve been seeing a pattern in progressive writing about the Dem primary; it’s a pattern that’s bugging me, and I want to talk about it.
The pattern is this: The progressive writing about the Democratic primary is completely buying into the narrative that this election is between Clinton and Obama. Not all of it, but a lot of it. And when Edwards is mentioned, the theme that keeps coming up is, “I like him, but he’s behind in the polls, and I don’t think he’s electable.”
And I want to shake these people and scream, “If you would fucking well endorse him, maybe he’d BE electable.”
The San Francisco Bay Guardian was the most recent one of these — and it’s the one that pissed me off the most. They’re the big progressive alterna-weekly here; their politics are sometimes wacky but are generally good. I really wanted to see what they had to say about Edwards, who I’m seriously considering voting for. And I wanted more information about him than, “We might endorse him if we thought he was electable.”
I understand the need to be pragmatic in an election. I’ve held my nose and voted for the least repulsive candidate more than once. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of candidates for major elective office who I actually felt unqualified excitement about. I get it. Really I do.
And in the general election, I completely get it. Come November, I will vote for whoever the Dems come up with. The Dems could nominate Lyndon Johnson again, and I’d vote for him.
But in a primary, it’s different.
In a primary, it seems to me, you’re supposed to forget about the horserace. In a primary, you’re supposed to vote for the person — brace yourself — who you’d most like to see win.
And the fact that people don’t vote for the person they most want to win is, I think, one of the main reasons the Democrats have traditionally coughed up such a pathetic succession of hairballs. I think the horserace mentality, the “Is he/she electable?” mentality, is what keeps the attention focused on such a narrow field… and what keeps attention off of anyone outside that field.
It’s not 100% different in a primary, I get that. I probably wouldn’t vote for Kucinich, after all, even if he hadn’t already dropped out of the race, and even if it hadn’t been for the UFO thing. I’m enough of a pragmatist to not vote for someone with less than 5% in the polls, even in a primary.
But Edwards is not Kucinich. Edwards could stand a chance, if people acted like he stood a chance. And I like him. So far, at least. I like what he’s saying about poverty, and I like what he’s saying about the war. I want to know more about him; and it bugs me that the people whose job it is to find out more about the candidates are ignoring him. It bugs me that he’s not being scrutinized, solely because of the self-fulfilling prophecy that he’s not electable.
Now, I’ll be honest. There is a part of me that’s thinking, “I really, really don’t want Clinton to get the nomination — so maybe I should just just suck it up and vote for Obama. I don’t love him, but I like Clinton even less.”
But I hate that. That horserace mentality is a huge part of what’s wrong with our electoral system. It’s such a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’re not supposed to be voting for the person who we think can win. Especially when you consider that the election experts, the ones who are telling us who can and can’t win, consistently have their heads up their asses.
It’s a democracy. We’re not supposed to vote for the person who we think can win. We’re supposed to vote for the person who we want to win.