This Is Not That Rough A Democratic Primary

by dday

In 1992, Bill Clinton started running negative ads against Paul Tsongas and Bob Kerrey in New Hampshire. The Republicans this year have been running negative ads since Iowa. Heck, even in 2004 Gephardt and Dean went nuclear on each other early. The history of Presidential primaries is not a game of patty-cake.

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. Because the leading contenders usually differ only modestly on issues, they are compelled to exaggerate their differences and to magnify any blemish they find in their opponent's character or career.

Yet the only negative ads in the Democratic primary so far ran for a day until both sides yanked them. By historical standards, this has been an unfailingly nice primary, and only recently have tempers flared. There have been some whispers from surrogates, some opposition research dropped into the papers, and some out-of-character behavior from a former President, but in general, that's politics, and it's not being played at a particularly cutthroat level. And Barack Obama seems to understand that this is a slap-fight compared to what we'll see in the fall from the Republicans.

At a morning press conference, though, Obama indicated that the race wasn’t as nasty as some may think, "I don't feel like the candidates are being blooded up," but then added on, "This is good practice for me, so ya know when I take on those Republicans I'll be accustomed to it."

The media is trying to push a narrative that this is the nastiest Democratic primary in history, and that it's causing an irreparable rift within the party that will never be patched up. They love the conflict and they're writing breathless articles about how the Clintons are "double-teaming" Obama and how everybody hates each other and the fate of the Democratic Party hangs in the balance.

I just don't buy it. The only thing nasty about this primary is the coverage of it, which has over-hyped every back-and-forth charge, and in particular over-hyped this so-called "rift." It's like the media heads into every campaign season as a tabula rasa, without the memory of any past performance in other primaries.

I know people get very emotional and the blogosphere reflects this emotion, but don't get suckered. Nobody's ruining the Democratic Party here. In my experience observing a caucus last week in Nevada, everyone was happy to vote for their candidate, and the high turnout was certainly being driven by a desire to return the White House to the Democrats. This idea of a rift is a game being played by the traditional media, who wants a storyline.

Update: I know it's very rude to intrude on D-Day's post, but I just have to add that the most sickening aspect of this media stoked "rift" is the fact that the kewl kidz are gleefully exploiting both the race and the gender angles for all they are worth. It's a neat little storyline thatprovides a forum for a group of comfortable elites to spend hours deriding Democrats (and the Democratic base) as silly and trivial bickerers who can't be trusted.

Meanwhile, have you heard about this rift? It sure seems like an important story to me:

According to American Conservative Union chairman David Keene, John McCain is not what you'd call a conservative's conservative.

"There's this personal animosity he has towards people over issues," said Keene, who has endorsed Mitt Romney. "Most conservatives see that he would like to remake the party without them."

Despite a voting record that suggests he should be in conservatives' good graces - he has an 82.3 percent lifetime rating from Keene's ACU - McCain has strident critics within the conservative establishment. Among them are Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Former Sen. Rick Santorum (who has vowed to support any Republican but McCain), and a host of conservative talk radio hosts led by Rush Limbaugh, who has suggested a McCain nomination would "destroy the Republican Party."

That's a substantial and important rift. You'd think we'd be hearing more about it considering that the Republicans have been dominating politics for the past 25 years.

But I guess it's not sexy. --- digby

Update II from digby:

Talk about a rift:

With candidate gone, former aide Darrel Ng helps launch to advocate shunning Norris-endorsed products, those who advertise on “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Read release here.

Citing Chuck Norris’s strong support for a candidate who does not believe in evolution and who has called for the isolation of AIDS patients, launched today to organize a boycott of products that Chuck Norris endorses or those who advertise on the television show in which he starred, Walker, Texas Ranger

My goodness, it seems to me there was a time not too long ago when the press would have insisted that was being disrespectful of Real American Christians.