Electability: The Lamest Argument in the Rhetorical Aresenal

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There is a new USA Today/Gallup poll out that says Barack Obama does better against the Republican candidates than Hillary Clinton, a fact that the Obama camp will no doubt point to when undercutting Clinton’s oft-made electability argument. The Edwards folks like to highlight this CNN poll that shows he is the only Democrat who slays all five heads of the Giuliani-Romney-Huckabee-McCain-Thompson medusa.

My take: who cares?

The electability argument is a pander to the basest desire in the political heart: the desire to win. Every campaign makes the argument, ignoring the fact that just because a candidate can get elected, or just because a majority of Americans think a candidate can get elected, doesn’t mean that candidate should be elected. As George W. Bush has proved twice, the skills and characteristics needed to get elected are not the same as the ones needed to govern well.

Obama, Clinton, and Edwards aren’t going to stop claiming they can win because electability, though a specious argument, matters to people. Voters don’t like backing a loser. But if a potential loser would be the best president, he or she deserves support, plain and simple.

That’s my overly idealistic blog post for the day. Back to your regularly scheduled snark and cynicism.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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