a canon lawyer... to argue against the canonization of the candidate. It was his job to take a skeptical view of the candidate's character, to look for holes in the evidence, to argue that any miracles attributed to the candidate were fraudulent, etc. The Devil's advocate was opposed by God's advocate, whose job was to make the argument in favor of canonization.(John Paul II removed the devil's advocate from the process, allowing far more saints to be canonized -- as Wikipedia notes, a tribute to the role's effectiveness.) The phrase relates doubly to this blog post, as it is not only playing the Devil's Advocate (in arguing, however tangentially, for Hillary) but also arguing for her on the grounds that she is playing one.
Hillary Clinton, as promised, has unleashed a barrage of negativity on Obama since the New Hampshire campaign -- presumably an attempt to regain front-runner status (which seems to have been successful so far). She is lying about his record on Iraq (via) -- to help disguise the fact that the single most pertinent difference between the two leading Democratic candidates is that one favored the immoral, disastrous war our country is currently engaged in and the other opposed it. She is trying to suppress the vote of voters who oppose her. And perhaps most repulsively, she is currently engaging Bush-backing surrogates to make racial smears (others listed here -- unless you think she's simply 'unlucky' in her advocates all settling on this at once). Clinton's not just gone negative -- she's gone Rove.
Which is the argument in defense -- not of voting for her, but of being thankful for her campaign. Because however many lies she tells, however nastily she smears Obama on racial grounds, the Republicans in the general campaign will do so a thousand times more viciously, more immorally and more mendaciously if Obama is the candidate. (Of course they will. If you think that St. John of McCain is above this sort of thing, then you simply weren't paying attention when McCain ratified American torture or threw himself in Bush's arms for the 2004 election, blessing his Iraq policy to date. McCain will do whatever it takes to win if he's the candidate: he may be the figurehead, but he'll be heading Rove's machine.) So if Obama can't overcome lies and racial slurs to beat Clinton... then he can't do it to beat McCain (or whoever else the Republicans unite behind).
Obama is speaking for a new form of politics. If he can win the Democrats with it, perhaps he can win the country. But since it's crucial for the Democrats to win -- and Clinton, whatever else you can say about her, would be a vastly, vastly lesser evil than every single one of the Republicans -- we need to be sure that the country is ready for it. If we are, then Obama can campaign on hope -- and, perhaps, transform the country's politics in the bargain.
If not, we'll hire the devil's advocate to fight an even greater devil, and let Hillary win a nasty, Rovian fight (probably with a Rovian-sized margin of victory, too).
None of this is to endorse voting for Clinton, of course. The point is that the issue is our national will -- whether we're ready to be better than this. And we can (collectively) decide what that will is: each of us plays an equal part. So if you (all of you, my real readers and my hypothetical ones) go out and vote for Obama, that act will make us a good enough country to do it. If not... then we're not ready yet, and Clinton's the One.
I just hope that, if it comes to that, I can stomach it when I vote for the race-baiter over the warmongering torture-promoter in the general election.
In the meantime, I'll vote for the hope that we're better than this. (To say nothing of the more liberal candidate -- and the one who voted against this hideous war.)