What is fair in life and politics?
“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” – Winston Churchill
“I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” – Will Rogers
The battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama reminds me of those quotes, two of my favorites. Democrats love messy democracy. Even though by every measure Clinton has virtually no chance of winning, Democrats want to be fair, to a fault. As long as there’s some chance, they are willing to let this intra-party squabble continue.
You wouldn’t ever see this happen in the Republican Party. Long before this point, the party leaders would have come together to stop any similar feud. They would have picked a winner, no matter how unfair it looked.
And in fact, they did just that. John McCain has many enemies in the Republican party, fueled by his occasional veering from the party line and flirtations with Democrats. Yet most of them jumped into bed with McCain once it became clear there were few other choices that could lead to a Republican successor for George W. Bush.
Watching the Republican machine operate for the last seven-plus years shows how discipline trumps fairness in the GOP. The vast majority of party leaders would follow President Bush off a cliff if that’s what he wanted. It’s something that worked very well for them. Even with Bush’s term winding down, and with the ongoing disaster he created destroying the GOP’s political fortunes, few Republicans are wandering off the reservation.
And maybe this points out the real difference between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats think the world is unfair and they need to fix it. Republicans agree the world is unfair, but do not think it can be fixed, and that it’s their right to take advantage of this unfairness to get what they want.
As with so many things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. One cannot fix all that is unfair in life, but the success of human society depends on a level of fairness being enforced.
The ballot box is supposed to be fair. Campaigns rarely are.
As the Democratic race lumbers on, Sen. Clinton sounds more Republican every day, even as she takes advantage of the Democrats’ predilection to fairness to continue her campaign. She pretends she dodged bullets in Bosnia, and proclaims herself to be pro-gun. She talks about an Obama speech in that dreaded liberal bastion “San Francisco,” as if she weren’t a liberal herself.
Makes me wonder if John McCain is delaying his choice for a running mate hoping that Hillary switches parties and jumps on the GOP ticket.
It’s hard to blame Clinton for pulling out all the stops to win. But with so much time between primary contests, and with two candidates who are pretty close together on the issues, the political media has had nothing to focus on but gotcha issues. This has helped lead this race straight into the mud pit.
The ABC debate last week was a great example. It took almost an hour of questions before any of the top issues in America were mentioned. Instead of substantive questions on Iraq, the economy, health care, immigration, etc., we were treated to questions about pastors and flag pins.
I would hope that when the votes are counted in Pennsylvania, this race can finally end so that we can get to the real debate over the direction of this country, a rebalancing of interests after seven years of one-sided government.
Is that too much to ask? Probably. After the Democratic dust settles, I’m sure we will be treated to a steady dose of McCain’s age versus Obama’s race, as if either really matters to this country’s future.
I wish it would just end soon. But that wouldn’t be fair, would it?
• Kirk Caraway writes for Swift Communications, Inc. He can be reached through his blog at http://kirkcaraway.com.