THE BLOG

Why Democrats Should Be Grateful For A Prolonged Primary Process

People have discussed lots of things about the Democratic primaries and the contest between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton: change vs. experience, demographics, delegates and superdelegates, media bias, the historic nature of the race and the identities of the candidates, for example. More than anything else, perhaps, I hear and read discussions about why one of the candidates, nearly always Senator Clinton, should bow out and give the party's nomination to Senator Obama "for the good of the party." I have a problem with that advice for a number of reasons.

First, where were those people months ago when Senator Clinton had a huge lead in the polls and seemed to be on her way to the nomination, free of serious obstacles, and Senator Obama got into the race? Did people tell him to stay out of the race "for the good of the party"?

Second, isn't the primary process supposed to be for the purpose of choosing the party's nominee? We've all seen the math. Apparently neither candidate can expect to win sufficient delegates to earn the nomination. Which means the nomination will come down to other factors. I would argue that Senator Clinton can make a strong case why she should be the nominee -- as can Senator Obama. But there is no justifiable reason for one of the candidates to throw in the towel unnecessarily.

I know there are those who argue that a protracted primary season is bad for the party. That somehow the fact that the Republicans have already chosen John McCain as their party's standard bearer should send shivers of fear down our collective spines and we have to start the general election campaign immediately. Ridiculous.

The truth is that the contest between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama has been the best thing to happen to the Democratic party in years, with the possible exception of the way the party has been united in its contempt for George W. Bush. The Clinton-Obama campaign has succeeded in bringing out tens of millions of Democratic voters and igniting more interest in Democratic politics than anything in memory. There are record turnouts in primaries everywhere. Fundraising records are being smashed every month by Democrats -- something almost unheard of previously. The debates between Clinton and Obama are ratings winners for the cable networks. In short, this race is good for the Democratic party. It will be good for the eventual nominee and it's getting the ideas of the Democratic party into every living room in America.

Just thinking about an eight-month general election campaign with John McCain can put me to sleep. I honestly think that whoever the Democratic candidate is, he or she will win in November. All of the excitement in this election is with the Democrats right now. Don't lull it to sleep by starting the campaign with McCain too early.

When I hear 20-year-old "Democratic Strategists" (how do they get these jobs?) on TV predicting doom and gloom if the primaries continue all the way to June, I can't help rolling my eyes. They seem to be missing the big picture. The primaries are giving people a chance to know the candidates and express their opinions. And this time around, Democrats (and independents and even some Republicans) are expressing opinions about two Democratic candidates in droves. They can't get enough of this race. Let it continue without the calls for one candidate or the other to get out. Make the most of the excitement people are feeling for these great candidates. Bring people to the party. Don't cut it short.