Saturday, March 29, 2008

[Fill in Time Period Here] is An Eternity in Politics

Nobody has a monopoly on the use of convenient wisdom -- political or biblical -- but it sure seems like everybody has forgotten a very important truism: "[fill in time period here] is an eternity in politics."

Yes, it would be nice to have a clear Democratic field, so the nominee can focus fire on John McCain who, for all of his prowess and charm, seems to be a target-indicator machine. Yes, the longer the intramural games wear on the wearier the victor will be for the nationals, and the greater chance that more weaknesses will be exposed for the competitor to exploit in big game.

But we are being treated to one of the greatest experiences of this nation's democratic process that anyone alive has ever seen. Books (good ones) will be written about campaign 2008. And we, the people, are the winners.

The system is working exactly as it was meant to: it is empowering voters in states that hold primaries and caucuses months after Iowa and New Hampshire and forcing candidates to make friends and influence people in places that have become accustomed to being afterthoughts, or worse.

Is it coincidental that voter registration and turnout is at historical highs? Or is it a matter of giving the people what they want?

It's a simple proposition. There are many, many more Democrats now. They will net plus this cycle, taking Independents and half-hearted Republicans. Don't mess with this, Democratic insiders. Stay inside. Never say anything in public that sounds like elections are great except for the pesky voting: that is what got us into this mess.

Remember that the process is more important than any of the players, and that the process is working just fine. Remember that legitimacy is enhanced by longevity.

True, the elongated nominating process has prolonged the illumination (and provoked the worst examples) of the Clintons' least attractive attributes: an overbearing sense of entitlement, an imperious self-righteousness, the all-to-easy reflex to bully and release the hounds. These faults are their fault, of course, and they may not redound to their benefit this time around.

But this is part of their nature, and I, for one, and not shocked shocked to discover it. I've long accepted to take the very good with the bad, and I have no desire to see her hounded out now for the sake of an untestable proposition that it will "help."

It isn't necessarily a bad thing to have all this attention heaped on the Democratic field -- even as McCain gaffes on Iraq, Iran and the economy -- as two attractive candidates dominate the headlines. Nobody will be talking about how long it took to get a Democratic nominee the day after there is one, just as nobody is talking about Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney. Better to have a McCain eruption closer to November, because it will get lost in the haze now -- an eternity from then.

And the worst mud slinging in the general campaign will not be inspired from a notion offered up by the loose lips of a losing Democratic nominee during this period of pre-decision. It will come from the usual place: a lie someone has already made up.

So, party on, Hillary. All that I ask of you and Barack is that when you do go, you go with some class. That, after all is said and done, is the only thing anyone will remember about this eternity.

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