The importance of the Labor primaries is fairly limited for the following reasons.
Reason 1: Labor has an uncontrollable urge to change its leader every year or two. But no matter who the head is, the party stays the same - bruised and torn. This is a party that devours its leaders, leaving barely an earlobe of the prey. Today someone or other will be elected and the party will get right to torturing him. He will be a temporary chairman, and tomorrow morning they can start getting ready for the next primaries.
Reason 2: Labor is a party that makes do with very little. In recent years it has come to terms with the fact that it is the second wheel on the wagon, if not a fifth wheel in the government. So it's not too important who sits next to Ehud Olmert as his assistant driver.
Reason 3: In any case, it's difficult to differentiate among the candidates. The identity cards they present are faded. Not only is the ideology blurred, the strategy has been erased and even the tactics are puzzling.
The energetic voters have no idea how their party will behave in a year or two, or even a week or two, if led by this guy or that. They have no idea if Labor will leave the government immediately or if at all; whether it will sit with Olmert as prime minister; whether it will insist on the finance portfolio or forego it again. Everything's a confusing zig-zag.
Reason 4: The two front-runners are asking for a second chance, they are promising the public that they have improved this time around.
As for the first-chance candidates, they are being criticized as having no experience. So the worries deepen that what was, will be, that who was, will be. Why should this interest us? It's not surprising that a party so divided is holding such a boring election.
Reason 5: The results of the primaries reveal nothing about Labor's standing among the broader public. The two sectors that will decide the election are the kibbutzim and the Arabs. With all due respect to both, they're a drop in the bucket. Thus, tonight's results will have nothing to teach us ahead of the national elections.
So how, despite this state of affairs, is one to decide who to vote for? A few days ago I saw a party member on television fall into the arms of a candidate and pledge his loyalty.
Why did he do that? Because the candidate called him and wished him a happy birthday. What the poor party member doesn't know is that his candidate, any candidate, makes many calls these days, and has no idea what the person's name is. Can't one of his aides remind him?
The moral of this story is you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. And we did not mention, or even allude to, the political appointments before and after, the direct and indirect rewards, personal and sectoral.
That's the way things are done. More than the Labor Party needs a new-old leader, it needs an old-new backbone.
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