Primary hyperbole | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Primary hyperbole

Posted By on Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 6:37 AM

Everything new is old. But don't tell that to the vigilant trend watchers in journalism, such as at the New York Times, which reports a vigorous fourth-grade straw poll on the Democratic presidential race as anecdotal evidence that young kids are more engaged in politics than ever. They are enthusiastic, I'm sure, but not for the first time. Huge personalities and wide attention excite all ages.

There was a near riot in 1960 at Hamilton Elementary School in Lake Charles, La., between the backers of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in our straw poll. I think the Kennedy supporters were the most enthusiastic. Kennedy's candidacy in heavily Catholic SW La. was wildly popular. Embarrassing confession: I was partial to Nixon as a fourth grader. My mother was one of a scarce handful of registered Republican voters in Calcasieu Parish and going against the flow was appealing to me even then.

But I think the fact of this deep enthusiasm tends to support another minority opinion of mine. That is my resistance to the popular theory that this primary is particularly vile and nasty and ultimately damaging to the Democratic cause. Bob Herbert advances the notion today, among others.

The hubbub about flag lapel pins, exaggerations about Bosnia fly-ins and the interminable "who-you-callin'-bitter?" flap may amount to largely irrelevant trivia. But this is pattycake stuff compared to many past electoral contests, not particularly vile or libelous. The wild alarums tend, again, to come mostly from Obama supporters who think his Audacity of Hope theme should have pre-empted politics as usual. It was a naive wish and Hillary will look like a demure church lady after the McCain forces get done working their electoral charms on Obama.

I still don't believe that a vigorous Democratic primary will dissaude Democrats from becoming energized in the fall about the desperate need for White House regime change. Those who do retreat from that battle really WERE enlisted only in a cult of personality, whichever of the candidates they favored. The broad enthusiasm, reaching even kids, is a good thing. A tough and hotly contested election stirs interest in the final outcome. It doesn't diminish it.

LATEST TRIVIA, courtesy of Wash. Post blog: Did Obama give Hillary the finger?

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