I like these pictures of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan just after Ford beat back Reagan’s challenge for the 1976 GOP nomination, and moments later when Reagan endorsed Ford. It’s by noted White House photographer David Hume Kennerly. (A few more Ford-era shots here; link via TNR’s The Plank.) Longtime readers know of my affection for President Gerald Ford, but that’s not the only reason I like them. I like how they shows that behind-the-scenes animosities during a presidential campaign can be set aside so everyone can make nice in front of the cameras.
I think the same thing will happen in this year’s Democratic race. I don’t think Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will ever become bosom chums, and probably won’t end up on the same ticket, but they’ll say all the right things and the loser will even campaign for the winner. This is why I’m not panicked that the race isn’t over yet.
I’ll also point to this note that the extended Dem race has added lots of Dem voters to the rolls; that’s a positive for the party. And I agree with Matthew Yglesias that most of these people really won’t defect to Sen. McCain in November. Most importantly, I think the very tough Democratic race will toughen up the winner — beating the other candidate for the nomination might be tougher than beating Sen. John McCain. Regardless of the bad blood so far, and regardless of the allure of Sen. Obama’s appeal for a new kind of politicking, enough Democrats will want to win badly enough to do what needs to be done. Even if it means voting for Hillary Clinton.
Speaking of that, it boggles me to see people importuning her to drop out, on the notion that she can’t catch up in pledged delegates. I guess the principle is that the winner of the popular vote should be declared the winner and simply confirmed by the superdelegates. But how does that make sense when she won the most votes in Texas but got fewer delegates than Obama? I say the superdelegates should feel free to vote for whomever they like (especially whomever they feel will stand the best chance against McCain), regardless of the delegate count. That’s why they’re there, after all. If the Dems want to change that system after this election, fine. But it’s there now and should be allowed to work as planned. It’s a somewhat antidemocratic institution, to be sure, but that’s not inherently bad. The Senate is a somewhat antidemocratic institution, and most people are fine with it.
Finally, invoking President Ford’s 1976 campaign may not be the most pleasant association for this year’s Democrats, of course. Ford lost, and it’s possible that some of that was owed to Reagan “weakening” Ford. But they way I see it, even with the Reagan challenge, even with the Nixon pardon, even with losing Vietnam on his watch, even with vice-presidential candidate Bob Dole skeezing everybody out a little, even with “Saturday Night Live” mocking him relentlessly, and even with the biggest throw-the-bums-out landslide in ages, Ford still almost beat Jimmy Carter.
I think the truer analogue to this year’s Democratic race is the 1968 election. Time will tell, however, whether it’s more like the 1968 Democratic race (where the Clinton character, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, beat the Obama-esque combo of Sens. Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, but the contest tore the party asunder) or the 1968 GOP race (where the Clinton analogue, Richard Nixon, handled the Obamian Ronald Reagan and squeaked by in the general, with Reagan getting a turn a few elections later).