It most definitely is silly season.
Billary Clinton’s coronation isn’t going quite as planned — it’s another long slog, like 2008 was, when Billary didn’t concede the Democratic Party presidential nomination to Hopey-Changey until June of that year — and both she and Bernie Sanders really want the 2016 Dem prez nomination, and it’s coming down to the wire.
Again, with only an estimated 214 pledged/democratically earned delegates separating the two as I type this sentence (Billary has an estimated 1,302 pledged delegates to Bernie’s estimated 1,088), and with 17 states to go, including New York on April 19, it’s only going to get uglier from now to and perhaps throughout the convention in July.
That said, very apparently we do need to be reminded that this shit is normal. It’s that 2012 was an uncontested Democratic presidential primary contest, and therefore it was placid, and here in the United States of Amnesia, 2008 was eons ago.
Salon.com’s Jack Mirkinson puts “Qualifiedgate” into perspective (links are Mirkinson’s):
Now that the 2016 presidential campaign has reached New York, things are getting, well, New York-ish. Ted Cruz was chased out of the Bronx. Hillary Clinton invaded a subway, for one stop. And Donald Trump spoke to his natural constituency — a huge crowd of angry Long Islanders.
So it’s no accident that some of New York’s aggressive zeal followed Bernie Sanders to Philadelphia [yesterday], where he declared that Hillary Clinton was not “qualified” to be president because of her super-PAC money, her vote for the Iraq War, her support for free trade and a host of other things he’s been criticizing Clinton for over the past year.
Cue the freakout!
Clinton’s spokespeople and surrogates immediately pronounced themselves horrified that Sanders would say such things. The Washington Post duly fact-checked Sanders’ assertion that Clinton had said he wasn’t qualified before he said she wasn’t qualified.
(It turned out that Clinton hadn’t directly said Sanders wasn’t qualified, but had just refused to say [whether] he was qualified when repeatedly pressed about the matter in an interview. Yes, this is the level we’re working at, people.)
Clinton, presumably satisfied with her campaign’s churning of the waters, gamely laughed off the fracas during a walkabout in the Bronx [today].
What’s next? Can Bernie ever walk his comments back? Can Hillary ever unite the party now? Is Donald Trump going to be president???
Let’s all take a deep breath, everyone, and have a little perspective. People fight during political campaigns!
The Democratic primary has already given us both Susan Sarandon/Debra Messing and Rosario Dawson/Dolores Huerta feuds. That’s just how it goes. You get into a candidate, you have arguments about [him or her], things get heated and intense. It happens literally every single time.
The difference in 2016 is that Twitter exists, and Twitter makes all politics even more horrible than they already were. It turns people into volunteer opposition researchers endlessly litigating every single sentence of the campaign, and it gives political hacks their biggest, most unimpeded platform in history. …
This flap over qualifications has everything you would find in an overdone Twitter fight. So of course everyone’s instantly going to Code Super-Red. But, seriously, this is what these things are like! Clinton is the frontrunner and is trying to push Sanders out of the race. Sanders doesn’t want to go anywhere, so he’s upping his game.
Doesn’t everyone remember the 2008 campaign, which was much more bitter, nasty and prolonged? Here’s how the New York Times described a single debate between Clinton and Barack Obama:
If the debate was full of memorable moments — Mrs. Clinton accusing Mr. Obama of associating with a “slum landlord,” Mr. Obama saying he felt as if he were running against both Hillary and Bill Clinton, the two candidates talking over each other — the totality of the attacks also laid bare the ill will and competitive ferocity that has been simmering between them for weeks.
“You know, Senator Obama, it is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you, because you never take responsibility for any vote, and that has been a pattern,” Mrs. Clinton said, drawing a chorus of jeers from a crowd at the Palace Theater in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Mr. Obama shot back that Mrs. Clinton was conducting a brand of negative politics that, he suggested throughout the night, she and her husband had perfected: “comb my 4,000 votes in Illinois, choose one, try to present it in the worst possible light.” He added that he had sought to maintain “a certain credibility” in the race.
Compared to that, the Clinton-Sanders race has been all sweetness and light. And, lest we forget, after that primary, when Hillary supporters had formed a group explicitly opposed to party unity, when the two camps were at each other’s throats, everyone got back together and Obama won. It was fine. It’ll be fine this time.
Need we remind ourselves that the Republican Party is currently Donner Party-ing itself? If there’s a contested GOP convention, is anyone going to still be thinking about that one thing Bernie said in April? Bernie Sanders is not about to say, “Sure, vote for Ted Cruz, I don’t care, me and Hillary were fighting earlier.” And one nasty exchange is not going to land Donald Trump in the White House. That’s not how it works.
So maybe everyone can just calm down for a minute, step away from Twitter, and take a nice long walk.
I agree with most of Mirkinson’s arguments and assertions, although my guess is that far more Billary supporters did go on to support Obama in November 2008 than the number of Bernie supporters who would/will support Billary in November 2016. Just sayin’, because that strikes me to be the case.
In any event, of course Billary refusing to say whether or not she believes that Bernie is qualified to be president is going to be perceived as tantamount to proclaiming that he isn’t, at least in this circus-like atmosphere, and if she truly didn’t know that when she pulled that shit, then, um, she isn’t qualified to be president.
But my best guess is that she quite intentionally was being passive-aggressive, that she very much wanted to attack Sanders but at the same time wanted to be able, in her own mind, to deny that she’d attacked him. Does being ultra-mega-uber-passive-aggressive like that disqualify you for the presidency? I mean, the nuclear codes…
But even all of that said, the entire purpose of a political campaign is for the candidates to argue that one is more qualified than is the other/another.
If it gets heated, the argument might be ratcheted up to the point of asserting that the/an opposing candidate isn’t qualified to hold the contested office at all.
Any snarkiness heretofore notwithstanding, I personally believe that Billary isn’t qualified to be president — her October 2002 vote in the U.S. Senate for the Vietraq War alone disqualifies her, in my book — and that’s my call, as a voter, to make for myself, and I long already have made that call for when I receive my ballot for California’s presidential primary election and I vote for Bernie Sanders.
You make your call.
We will go on here in the United States of Amnesia. Probably.
But perhaps the only sure thing is that we’ll forget how nasty 2016 was when we have yet another fairly nasty presidential cycle in the not-too-distant future.