THE MEME-DRIVEN PRIMARY….Hey, finally someone remembers that primaries in the past haven’t exactly been strolls in the park. Here’s Ronald Brownstein:
At one New York City debate late in the 1984 race, Walter Mondale and Gary Hart battered each other so relentlessly that Jesse Jackson almost needed to physically separate them. In an especially heated 1992 encounter, Bill Clinton appeared ready to lean over and deck Jerry Brown.
The nominating system, by its nature, encourages such ferocity….
I don’t know if this year’s primary has really been an awful lot more heated than some in the past, but it sure has been more meme driven. Obama wins Iowa and there’s an absolute barrage of coverage saying he’s sewn up the nomination. Hillary Clinton shows a flash of emotion and it’s on cable TV 24/7. Remarks from both sides (Hillary supposedly dissing Martin Luther King, Obama supposedly swearing fealty to Ronald Reagan) have been blown massively out of proportion by feeding frenzy coverage.
The latest meme, of course, is that a few testy exchanges means that this is the roughest, toughest, meanest primary we’ve ever seen. Spare me. I always feel old and cranky when I say stuff like this, but we’ve seen rough, tough, mean primaries before on both sides. Yeah, Hillary and Obama are playing hardball, but get over it folks. Nothing they’ve done so far is even remotely out of bounds for big league politics.
But even Brownstein can’t resist the trap:
What ought to trouble Democrats is that their two leading candidates have reached this point at a time when a great many signs suggest their competition could continue long after the 22-state showdown on February 5 — probably until Texas and Ohio vote on March 4. That means that unless the candidates can climb back off this emotional ledge, they will have plenty of time to damage each other — and the party’s prospects next fall. Nasty, brutish, and long is an ominous combination for Democrats.
Yeah, sure. Look, I’ve been pretty sparing in my predictions, but here’s another one: all of this will be long forgotten within a few weeks of the primary’s end, whether that’s February 5, March 4, or even a little later. If there’s anything we’ve learned from this season’s campaigning, it’s that attitudes change on a dime these days. Last week’s controversy might as well have happened in the Middle Ages. Once the Democrats decide on a winner, it will be kumbaya city for the full half year leading up to the convention. You heard it here first.