Paul Krugman's column today is just bizarre:
"The bitterness of the fight for the Democratic nomination is, on the face of it, bizarre. Both candidates still standing are smart and appealing. Both have progressive agendas (although I believe that Hillary Clinton is more serious about achieving universal health care, and that Barack Obama has staked out positions that will undermine his own efforts). Both have broad support among the party’s grass roots and are favorably viewed by Democratic voters.
Supporters of each candidate should have no trouble rallying behind the other if he or she gets the nod.
Why, then, is there so much venom out there?
I won’t try for fake evenhandedness here: most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody. I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality. We’ve already had that from the Bush administration — remember Operation Flight Suit? We really don’t want to go there again."
Note to self: whenever someone writes an article that doesn't reference any specific individual, just a mindset attributed to an entire group of people, beware.
I have no doubt that most of the venom that Krugman sees comes from Obama supporters. He has, after all, been on an anti-Obama tear for several months now. But he is an economist, and economists should know enough about basic social science techniques to be able to ask: am I working from a genuinely random sample? In the case of, say, Krugman's email, the answer would have to be: no.
Next question: are there any better sources of information out there? Well, yes. For one thing, there are the Super Tuesday exit polls:
"Nearly two-thirds -- 72 percent -- of Democratic voters said they'd be satisfied with Clinton as the nominee, and 71 percent said they'd be happy with Obama."
Or, to put the same point slightly differently:
"Just 49 percent of Democrats who voted for Clinton said they would be satisfied if Obama won, while just 52 percent of Obama voters said they would be satisfied if Clinton won."
Note that there's a lot of room between being "satisfied" and being venomous. Had I been asked, I'm not sure whether or not I would have said that I would be "satisfied" with Clinton as a nominee. As I have said earlier, I would vote for her over McCain in a heartbeat. I think she's a better nominee than Kerry, and certainly better than other nominees I have voted for (cough, Michael Dukakis, cough cough.) So if "being satisfied" with a candidate means something like that, I'd be satisfied. But it seems to me to connote something more than that: thinking a candidate is just fine, perfectly OK, not my first choice but just dandy. And I'm not sure I could feel that way about anyone who voted for the Iraq War Resolution, or who did some of the things Clinton has done this primary season.
So I might have been one of the minority of Obama voters who was not "satisfied" with Hillary Clinton. But I hope I'm a long way from "venom". I have, at any rate, argued against any sort of Democratic civil war, and I do not foresee one. Note as well that according to the exit polls, more Clinton supporters would be dissatisfied with Obama as the nominee than the reverse: even if "dissatisfaction" does mean something stronger than I'm imagining, there seems to be more of it among Clinton supporters.
The blogosphere is not particularly representative, but it's probably a lot more representative than Krugman's mail. For what it's worth, I don't see a lot of venom among pro-Obama bloggers either. I mean, does anyone think that Matt Yglesias is venomous, or consumed by hatred of all things Hillary? I don't. What about Mark Kleiman? Or Anonymous Liberal? Or, well, publius and me? We've all been supporters of Obama for a while, and I don't think any of us is particularly full of hate and bitterness. For that matter, none of us strike me as lending much support to another of Krugman's claims: that "the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality."
In any case, when we vote for President, we are not voting for someone's supporters. Even if people who support Obama are doing so in a cultish way -- and I have seen no evidence that they are, though I'm sure that every candidate has some supporters who are cultish or otherwise silly -- that's irrelevant to the choice we face as citizens.
Paul Krugman should know better than to write a column based on so little. Democrats are not consumed by bitterness and hatred. We are in the midst of an exciting primary race between two formidable candidates. I see nothing to indicate that this is anything but good for the party, and no indication that the kind of venom Krugman talks about is more widespread than usual. I'm sure that a disproportionate amount of it is ending up in his inbox, but he should know better than to base a whole column on that.