Many of the complaints about the possibility of primarying Obama are the same complaints we heard about Hillary Clinton staying in the race in the last primary. That it’ll somehow damage Obama, and he won’t be able to win. That didn’t happen last time, and I trust Obama on the campaign trail enough that I don’t think it’ll happen if he faces a challenger this time.
While Kennedy challenging Carter is a counterexample, generally speaking primary elections are good for whoever emerges from them. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and a bad economy were more responsible for the result of that election than Ted Kennedy. Primary elections serve the party that undertakes them in a few ways. They clarify where we are as a party and they draw some attention to the positions of the incumbent.
If Cornel West, Ralph Nader, or whoever wants to try to convince Democrats that they have a better way forward for the next election, that’s fine. We’re a big party that can accommodate its own liberal wing. I’d certainly rather they do it in a primary than in November when they might cost Obama votes.
As for the news cycle, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather see coverage of someone going after Obama for being too centrist than hear Rick Perry and Mitt Romney discuss how much of a socialist he supposedly is. Of course with the 24 hour news there can be plenty of both. But a primary against Obama might crowd out some of the silly stuff from the Republicans, especially in print and network/local news where there’s more limited space.
Still, if there’s a primary challenge and it’s still going on, somehow, when Washington caucuses, I’ll proudly go for Obama. He’s brought us the most comprehensive health care reform of my lifetime, moving us a lot closer to universal coverage. He’s winding down Iraq. He’s passed meaningful consumer protection laws. Oh yeah, and he got Bin Laden. None of those is perfect, and there have been baffling strategic decisions along the way, as well as policies I’ve opposed. Still, he’s earned a second term.
And besides, if you’re looking for Democrats to primary, I’d like to suggest that there’s much more bang for your buck at the local level or at Congress.