It’s easy to forget, a year later, just how difficult 2008 was on Democrats. From mid-March to mid-June, the party was fractured almost exactly down the middle between boosters of Hillary Clinton and devotees of Barack Obama. The snarling and back-biting was intense, viscious, mean-spirited, and brutal. Along the way, all sorts of dirt was dug up and flung with real intent to destroy. Anyone looking at the Democrats in late-May saw a party that was coming apart at the seams.
But a funny thing happened on the way to disaster. Both candidates — Clinton and Obama — became better candidates for the experience of the battle. Damaging information about Obama — the Wright kerfuffle chief among it — came up and was disposed of. Obama was forced to defend himself from withering attacks, and so was Clinton. Whichever candidate survived the marathon was in far better shape to take on John McCain, and when the dust settled, Barack Obama handled the Republican easily, cruising to victory in November.
Obama did this not in spite of the bruising primary battle, but because of a bruising primary battle.
Here’s Jeff on Sunday in Inevitable:
In 1990, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party put forth a sacrificial lamb for the United States Senate. The feisty college professor was entertaining, and the base loved him, but he obviously couldn’t beat the firmly entrenched and well-liked Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, I-R-Minn.
Jeff goes on to describe several wrong-headed nuggets of conventional political wisdom since then, including this last one:
In 2009, everyone knows that Matt Entenza will be the nominee for the DFL in 2010. He’s got a lot of money and a strong organization, and he will obviously steamroll anyone in his way. Anyone who says otherwise is dooming the party to defeat.
And this is Jeff last Friday in Anybody But Entenza:
The Democratic-Farmer-Labor party is really bad at picking gubernatorial candidates. Not since 1986 — that’s 23 years ago — has a DFL candidate won election in a governor’s race, a five-cycle drought that’s almost impossible in a state as blue as Minnesota. The candidates we’ve put up since — Rudy Perpich in full Governor Goofy mode in 1990, John Marty in weak tea mode in 1994, Skip Humphrey in dynastic right mode in 1998, Roger Moe in Roger Moe mode in 2002, and Mike Hatch in full meltdown mode in 2006 — have been disaster piled upon disaster, a series of men (all men) who each, in his own special way, clearly deserved to lose their election.
It is tempting to write this off as an aberration, but it is not; in the history of Minnesota, there have been a total of five DFL governors. Two of them are Rudy Perpich; the others are Wendy Anderson, Karl Rolvaag, and Orville Freeman. By the time the next governor is sworn into office, Republicans will have held the Governor’s mansion for 42 of the past 72 years. Independents will have held it for four. DFLers have held it for 26 — and again, eleven of those years belong to Rudy Perpich.
This is not an aberration. This is a trend. [Spot might have called it a tradition, but he quibbles.]
Which brings us to Matt Entenza.
Excellent posts, each one of them, and well worth a Spotty (tm) for the series. Congratulations, Jeff.
Remember, boys and girls, a Spotty is awarded to the author of an op-ed piece, a letter to the editor, or a blog post or comment that Spot wishes he had written himself.
And excuse Spot for burying the lede.