Going in to this election cycle, I had high hopes that we might have a Democrat in the White House who would undo so much of the horror (and Constitutional violations) inflicted on this country by eight years of being Bushwhacked. Ah, the good old days.
Once the Dems got down to two candidates, everything began to come apart at the seams. Obama couldn't win Ohio and Texas outright (he did get more delegates in Texas while Clinton won the popular vote). In light of Clinton's wins in New York and California, and then last week in Pennsylvania, the charge is that Obama can't win the big states. Meanwhile he has tallied wins in heavily Republican states, indicating that he can compete against the GOP in places that once were given up as lost.
As things now stand, Clinton cannot possibly get more delegates than Obama, but she could conceivably win the overall popular vote. Yikes. Under these conditions, Clinton could pressure the super-delegates to vote for her as the party's choice, no matter where the delegate count ends up.
How did Obama, who easily won Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska, among many predominantly white states, suddenly become the black candidate who can't win white votes except for those of effete urbanites? Another successful Clinton spin tour-de-force, enabled by mainstream media's inability to conduct the most basic analysis, and its enjoyment at being bullied by the Clinton campaign into reporting the opposite of anything that is logical or true.
Ohio and Pennsylvania did not demonstrate her strength among white voters in general, but it did show that both states are rich in the demographics that make up Clinton's shrinking base. She found a way to exploit the anxieties of older white people in places that have been economically depressed and deeply segregated for decades. Every white person not voting for Obama isn't racist, but in Pennsylvania, for instance, at least three-quarters of Clinton's overall margin was provided by white voters who said that the candidates' race was important to them. Clinton found a chillingly receptive audience for her message of fear of Muslims, Japan (you know a candidate isn't targeting 30 year-olds when Pearl Harbor is central to their advertising), China, San Francisco, and black preachers, but ultimately it has proven a limited market, which should provide some comfort for Obama going into the fall.Both Ohio and Pennsylvania still count in a general election, although they will matter less in 2012 after the next census once again depletes their electoral votes. However, to base an entire general election strategy on winning these states, as Clinton is obliged to imply, is complete folly, especially if it means discarding the opportunity for success in entire regions, including the West and the South. Clinton would do marginally better in November than Obama in Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to recent polling (he is in a tie with John McCain; she wins by a small margin). However, she would be completely overwhelmed in a whole series of states growing in importance and which Obama would at the very least make competitive. In Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Alaska, Indiana and Nevada, for instance, he either beats McCain or is in a statistical tie.
Talk about math wars: Sen. Hillary Clinton, flush with her 200,000-vote win in the Pennsylvania primary, is suggesting that the popular vote should settle the presidential nomination.How has she gotten back into a race that she seemed destined to lose prior to the PA debate? She listened to Bubba and went negative.
But that plan, aimed at swaying the superdelegates to the Democratic convention this summer, is built on some shaky calculations -- or may depend improbably on Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that can't vote for president.
Within hours of the Pennsylvania victory, the Clinton campaign announced that "more people have voted for Hillary than any other candidate," a claim that was widely thought to be aimed at the party honchos who will break the impasse between Sen. Clinton and rival Barack Obama.
Sen. Obama could easily erase any current popular-vote gap on May 6 when the largest prizes outstanding -- Indiana and North Carolina -- hold their primaries. Most polls put him well ahead of Sen. Clinton in North Carolina, which has 2.6 million Democrats and an additional 1.2 million independents. Polls also show Sen. Obama with a small advantage in Indiana, whose 4.3 million registered voters aren't specifically barred from crossing party lines to cast ballots.
Mr. Clinton has become something of a strategist-in-chief in recent weeks. He has been pushing for harder and sharper attacks on Sen. Obama. While she has jabbed her opponent over his "elitist" tone and controversial statements by his former pastor, Mr. Clinton delivers his own slams on the stump, calling Obama ads misleading.This may work in the short term, but in the longer scheme of things it's going to divide the party.
The former president says he's in uncharted territory. "Being the spouse is more difficult than when I was the candidate," he says in a brief interview. "When you're running, you're out there driving every day. But when you're the spouse, you feel more protective. It's much harder."
Mr. Clinton has placed several of his own aides at headquarters, including his former lawyer and a bevy of strategists. Known as a bad loser, Mr. Clinton privately buttresses his wife's drive to push on, telling her, according to aides: "We're not quitters."
His role has come at a cost -- to morale among some campaign staff, relations inside the Democratic Party and with African-American leaders, and in the view of some, his own legacy. He has lost considerable credibility with many party leaders, who, as "superdelegates" to the party convention, will be crucial in determining who is the Democratic presidential nominee.Bill's days as the leader of the Democratic party are over, and with that change the party is falling into ruins. The divide within the Dems between the young, wealthy, and educated (Obama supporters) and the elderly, financially struggling, and less educated (Clinton supporters) is something new. McCain sees this as an opportunity to echo Clinton's charges that Obama is an elitist, which is silly. He is the only self-made candidate in the race -- both Clinton and McCain were born with the proverbial silver spoon.
This was supposed to be the easiest win for the Dems in ages. Not so anymore. Obama once frightened the GOP, but now he seems beatable after the "bitter" issue and the swift-boating of Reverend Wright.
First Rev. Wright's most recent statements on his fate:
In a televised interview last night with Bill Moyers, Wright said the controversy surrounding him came from out-of-context sound bites and the mainstream media's naïveté about the African-American experience.
"I felt it was unfair. I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt for those who were doing that [they] were doing it for some very devious reasons," said Wright, former Trinity United Church of Christ pastor.
The reverend's comments come after Obama's campaign continually has tried to put the issue of race to bed.
"We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. But they're two different worlds," said Wright, who has more interviews and appearances lined up.
I agree that Wright, no matter what he has said, is being unfairly castigated. But then I have been extremely critical of this government.
Republicans say the new focus on Mr. Obama reflects their view that he remains the more likely Democratic presidential nominee since he continues to lead Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in convention delegates. It also shows that Republicans, who have for months characterized Mrs. Clinton as the contender who would most energize Republican voters, now see vulnerabilities in Mr. Obama that could be liabilities for other Democrats on the ballot.All of this plays to Clinton's favor, and further divides the party. She must be thrilled that Rev. Wright has scheduled a whole series of interviews.
“There were times when Republicans reacted with just horror that he would lead the ticket,” said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst. “Now there is not the sense of him being invulnerable, the magic bullet. I think there has been a major change.”
The growing Republican emphasis on Mr. Obama could also help Mrs. Clinton plead her case that she is more electable, bolstering her argument to superdelegates that Republicans are poised to pounce on her relatively untested opponent. Her advisers have been frustrated that some top Democrats rate Mrs. Clinton a greater liability for the party’s candidates in conservative parts of the country — a view still held by some strategists — even though she has shown a capacity to withstand Republican attacks.
Maybe the Times Online has nailed the real problem (although more than a little biased, I think Baker is right in some ways), by concluding both Democratic candidates are too flawed:
Hillary Clinton's solid victory in the Pennsylvania primary on Tuesday has condemned the party to many more weeks of strife and sinking public esteem. There's a popular view among Democrats and the media establishment that the reason for the party's current disarray is that it just happens to have two most extraordinary candidates: talented, attractive, and in their gender and race, excitingly new. But there's an alternative explanation, which I suspect the voters have grasped rather better than their necromancers in the media. Both are losers.
The longer the Democratic race goes on, the more obvious it appears that each is deeply, perhaps ineradicably flawed.
Until about a month ago Barack Obama had done a brilliant job of presenting himself as a transcendent figure, the mixed-race candidate with bipartisan appeal who promised to heal the historic and modern rifts in American life.
But the mask has slipped. Under pressure in a Democratic primary, Mr Obama has sounded just like any other tax-raising, government-loving Democratic politician. Worse, he has revealed himself to be a member of that special subset of the party's liberal elite - a well-educated man with a serious superiority complex.
His worst moment of the campaign was when he was caught telling liberal sophisticates about his anthropological observations on the campaign trail. In the misery of their daily lives, he said, the hicks out there in the sticks cling to religion and guns and the other irrational necessities of the unenlightened life. His wife had earlier told voters that they should be grateful that someone of his protean talents had deigned to come among them and be their president.
The events of the last month have also revealed another side of Mr Obama that threatens to undermine his whole message. He is a cynic. He tells the mavens of San Francisco one thing and the great unwashed of Pennsylvania another. In defending his long relationship with the Rev Jeremiah Wright, he shopped his own grandmother, comparing the reverend's views (God Damn America! The US deliberately spread Aids among the black population) to his grandmother's occasionally expressed fears about the potential of being the victim of crime at the hands of an African-American.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has been busy shedding the final vestiges of shame and honesty in her desperate attempt to save her candidacy. She has abandoned any pretence of a message, and simply seized on every opening presented to her by her opponent.
Mr Obama's missteps with the working class of Pennsylvania have thus transformed Mrs Clinton from the bluestocking Wellesley graduate into the good old girl, hanging out there with the straw-chewing rednecks, embracing their values, their worldview and even their lifestyle.
Obliterate Iran! Here comes Osama bin Laden! I love duck hunting! I can do shots and beer at the same time! It's hard to know what's worse - expressing condescending views about the working class or pretending to be one of them. The Democratic campaign is simply disappearing in the enveloping vapidity of the candidates' making.
[In all fairness, McCain, despite being the "great hero," is flawed as well.]
In other words, the issues be damned. What we are left with are process stories as opposed to content stories, and yet the process crap, at least to people like Baker -- and other members of the media -- has become the only content that matters.
The Democrats often take a beating for their reliance on identity politics, but that is exactly where the party is right now -- caught up in the fervor over having a woman AND a black candidate in the same year, and lining behind one or the other with vicious zeal.
Yet, the GOP loves to play the identity politics game as well -- they are the common working man's party, while the Dems are elitist and condescending. Two very distinct identities being offered, but in a different way, so it slips under the radar.
Yet how many people in Bush's cabinet served active duty? Or grew up in an inner city? Or didn't go to an Ivy League level school? How many of the most powerful members of the GOP ever worked a real job to pay for school? Or took a low paying job to help inner city residents?
The elitism shit is just that -- shit. Both parties are elitist (and the GOP's trickle-down BS is VERY elisist, as well as just plain wrong), it's just that the GOP figured out that labeling the Dems as elitist would be a great tactic before the Dems figured it out -- they're always a bit slow in the name-calling arena.
So where are we now? The media, despite Obama's insurmountable delegate lead, is beginning to think Clinton can win this thing. But if she does somehow twist some arms and gets the super-delegates to line up behind her, where is the party left?
At least 20% of Democrats won't vote for Clinton even if she gets the nomination.
If Clinton is the nominee, either by fiat or by Obama withdrawing, they will certainly have lost the black vote. They will certainly have lost the youth vote. They will certainly have lost the White House. They will be left with another four to eight years to get their house in order.
According to a new poll, 50% of Americans (as well as 50% of Democrats) now believe that the campaign has become too nasty – so nasty, in fact, that 20% of those polled say that they will not vote for Clinton in November if she is nominated.
Obama, meanwhile, finds himself in a tricky situation. After promising a new style of politics, he can hardly engage in mudslinging the way Clinton does. If he turns too negative, voters will accuse him of flip-flopping on his promise, and Clinton will doubtless let people know that Obama’s new way of politics eerily looks like the old; that is, her approach to political campaigning.
But how many more punches and low blows must Obama take before he is willing to speak up for himself? Following Clinton’s win in Pennsylvania, political pundits and observers have begun to urge Obama to take the gloves off and go after Clinton at full blast. Both he and his campaign are resisting these calls for getting tough.
While the two candidates battle it out, the Democratic party is slowly falling apart. Some high-level Democrats have called on Clinton to drop out of the race for the sake of the party, and more recently, one Slate.com blogger has suggested that Obama should be the one withdrawing from the race, so that he can run and win in 2012.
They have a party divided by gender, by race, by age, and by economic status. If there is any hope for the Democrats, it might be that they lose -- and lose badly -- this fall. Maybe they will finally adopt the approach Obama began with -- hope and optimism, truth and integrity. And maybe they will learn that to beat the GOP, they will have to control the terms of engagement instead of letting the GOP noise machine dictate the national conversation.
Or maybe the party will simply implode, once and for all.