This article provides excellent historical context to challengers staying in the race and going to the convention. Its pretty clear there’s a big double standard going on in the 2008 campaign. Just goes to show what happens when biasness and bad journalism mix.
No longer content to be observers of the campaign, journalists now see themselves as active players in the unfolding drama, and they show no hesitation trying to dictate the basics of the contest, like who should run and who should quit. It’s as if journalists are auditioning for the role of the old party bosses.
…Looking back at history, it’s hard to find evidence of the same media response to Ronald Reagan’s failed 1976 presidential campaign. Taking on President Gerald Ford, Reagan lost more primaries than he won, and Ford won a plurality of the popular vote, but neither man had enough delegates to secure the nomination. So the campaign went to the GOP convention, where Ford prevailed. The bitter battle did nothing to damage Reagan’s reputation (in fact, it did quite the opposite), in part because the media did not collectively suggest the candidate was acting selfishly or irrationally. Instead, Reagan walked away with a reputation as a resilient fighter who stood up for his conservative values.
And what about Sen. Ted Kennedy’s doomed run in 1980? He trailed President Jimmy Carter by more than 750 delegates at the end of the primary season and insisted on fighting all the way to the convention, where he tried to get committed Carter delegates to switch their allegiance. The press did not spend months during the primary season ridiculing Kennedy, in a deeply personal tone, for remaining in the race.
And what about Gary Hart in 1984? He and Walter Mondale split the season’s primaries and caucuses evenly, and neither had the 2,023 delegates needed to secure the nomination. Superdelegates eventually determined the winner. (Sound familiar?) Mondale had many of them locked up even before the campaign season began, so after the final primary between Mondale and Hart was complete, it was obvious that Mondale was going to be the nominee because Hart could not persuade enough superdelegates to change their mind and support him.
When Hart took his crusade all the way to the convention, the media did not form a posse and decide it was their job to get Hart to quit for the good of the party. (And the press certainly didn’t form a posse in March to start pushing Hart out of the race.) Nor did the press collectively suggest that Hart had an oversized ego that had turned him into a political monster.
That new media standard has been created exclusively for Hillary Clinton.
And where were the catcalls in 1988 for Jesse Jackson to ditch his quixotic run before all the primary votes had been tallied? He finished with 1,200 delegates, nearly 1,400 behind Michael Dukakis, yet soldiered on all the way to the convention without having a prayer of winning the nomination. There were few if any media drum sections trying to pound him out of the race.
Or Jerry Brown in 1992? He continued his campaign against Bill Clinton through June despite the fact he tallied fewer than 600 delegates. (By contrast, Hillary Clinton has won approximately 1,600 delegates so far.) Brown’s attacks at the time were far more personal and bruising than anything we’ve seen this cycle. As The New York Times reported on June 2, 1992, Brown “put his party on notice that he intends to carry his politics-is-corrupt, Clinton-is-unelectable message to the Democratic National Convention in New York in July, and beyond.” Brown also told the Times that voting for Clinton was like buying a ticket on the Titanic.
…If you look at Reagan and Kennedy and Hart and Jackson and Brown, those men all ran competitive races. But toward the end of the primary season it was clear most of them had no mathematical chance of winning the nomination. (Reagan was the exception.) Yet none of them was told collectively by the press to go home. Nor were they routinely depicted in the media as being self-absorbed.
Today, Clinton does have a chance to win. Yet she has been told by the press to go home and to get over herself.