About a year and a half ago, i had an insight into American politics that troubled me. One way in which the two major parties differ significantly is in how, generally, they treat their failed presidential nominees.
In 1980, after losing the White House, Jimmy Carter was treated as a pariah. It wasn’t until the Clinton administration, I think, that he regained any respect at all within the party he headed.
In 1984, Walter Mondale went straight from nominee to oblivion.
In 1988, Dukakis did the same.
In 2000, after the election, Gore had to (stealing from myself here) spend his time in the wilderness before he got in touch with his inner granola, remaking himself as the Defender Of Gaea.
After 2004, John Kerry was held in almost as much contempt by those who backed him as those of us who knew from the outset what he was all about.
And it isn’t just presidents. Look at what happened with Joe Lieberman. Hell, it can be argued that accepting Gore’s offer of the #2 spot was the worst thing he could have done. It pushed him into a prominence that he was ill-equipped to withstand.
On the other hand, Republican failures tend to be welcomed back into the fold more quickly. in 1980, Gerald Ford was seriously considered as Ronald Reagan’s running mate. George W. Bush, after his election, was thought of as the kindly old uncle of the GOP. And even Richard Nixon was eventually reformed into Elder Statesman and sage of foreign policy.
That is all going away now, it seems. With John McCain’s loss on Tuesday, it’s absolutely astonishing how quickly the knives are out for John McCain and Sarah Palin.
Like so many, I’m disgusted.
It’s like some Republicans have decided that the best way to beat the Democrats is to mindlessly copy what they do, including the really, really dumb ones. And this treatment of the standard bearers of their party is nothing short of appalling.
Yes, it’s important to look at a defeat and try to figure out why you lost. But it’s also important to look at the other side and try to figure out why they won. And in either case, the incredibly petty and vindictive back-biting is not just embarrassing and stupid and self-destructive, it’s also pointlessly embarrassing, stupid, and self-destructive.
Sometimes that’s fun to watch. Four years ago, when the target was John Kerry, I sat back and relished it — because it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.
But generally, it’s not a good thing. And in particular, when it’s being done to two people whom I think deserve respect for their accomplishments, and willingness to take such risks as they have.
And it’s reaffirmed my staunch desire to stay the hell out of party politics (and parties in general). That is precisely the kind of petty bullshit that I have literally negative interest in.