Both The New York Times and The Washington Post are reporting this morning that there is “widespread concern” (the Post) among Democratic officials that a “fractious turn” (the Times) in the “increasingly nasty” (the Post) primary race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton could “leave scars” (the Times) that will make it impossible for the party to unite once Clinton wins the nomination, er, once a winner emerges from the nomination contest. The problem with this narrative is that it’s not close to being true.
The source of the supposed conflict is Sanders’s assertion this week that Clinton isn’t “qualified” to be president. The Clintonistas are pretending this is a deeply upsetting and condescending remark, but it’s really not all that different from what Sanders has been saying all campaign: that Clinton’s wealth of government experience is undercut by her lousy judgment. (“I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are qualified if you supported almost every disastrous trade agreement.” Etc.) It’s pure rhetoric. Even Clinton herself has deemed this controversy “silly.”
More to the point, it’s not that cutting an insult. Remember when Clinton suggested back in 2008 that John McCain might be more qualified than Barack Obama to be president? That was cold! Remember when Clinton accused Barack Obama of getting his back rubbed by a slum lord? That was nasty! Remember when Clinton’s most valuable surrogate wrote Barack Obama off as a “fantasy” because he was, basically, black? That was just so messed up!
In contrast, the 2016 primary is genial, less dramatic, and a little boring. Somehow I think the Democratic Party will survive the “qualified” controversy.