Thursday, May 22, 2008

Will the Left Sink the Democrats?

The left has decided that Barack Obama is their candidate. That's not news, although why the left coalesced around Obama rather than Clinton or Edwards is a matter that bears some speculation, as either of the other two are at least as left as Obama on the issues (Edwards was the farthest left in this primary season). What is news is that the left turns out to be a problem as we find ourselves in an exceedingly delicate political situation here in the far endgame of the Democratic primaries. I will try to be as direct as possible: both the left and the black voters are failing to appreciate the gravity of Obama's problems with working class whites. They are also making the big mistake of construing all of Clinton's voters as anti-Obama voters, ignoring two things: 1) many of those voters have been supporting Clinton since way before Obama emerged as the front-runner, and 2) many (almost certainly most) of Clinton's voters are motivated primarily by economic concerns. They see Clinton as the best hope of economic improvement. Clinton's voters are for the most part voting for Clinton, not voting against Obama. It was disappointing to hear an African-American caller on C-Span's Washington Journal the other day denigrating Clinton's supporters as ignorant crackers and Rush Limbaugh dittoheads. I would expect people who have been unfairly maligned for political ends to be sensitive to not doing that, but I guess I'm too optimistic. And that brings me to Florida and Michigan. I was also disappointed to hear Rachel Maddow on MSNBC making a distinction between what she called an "ethical" position - Michigan and Florida ought to be disenfranchised because they "didn't follow the rules" - and a "strategic" position - Clinton's, that is, what is needed to win the nomination. This manages to imply that Clinton is unethical and at the same time that the voters of Michigan and Florida deserve to be punished for some wrongdoing. Double nonsense. The situation with Florida and Michigan is a fiasco, to be sure, but now the reality is that the Democrats need both states to win the election. Contrary to what some of my Democratic friends seem to think, this election is not going to be an easy thing. We cannot write anyone off, concede any battle. Maddow, like a lot of Obama supporters, wants to silence Michigan and Florida because she's in the tank for Obama. What about consensus? What about representation? Who are these boutique "progressives" who turn out to be obtuse about consensus politics, alienated from working class people, disdainful of rural whites, hostile to compromise? Populists they ain't, folks, and this old-fashioned liberal says that if the Democratic Party loses the current wide-open opportunity to become a real alternative for ordinary working class whites, it might mean another generation of Republican power. What we are now going to find out is, how wise is the leader? Will Obama show that he is a bigger person than so many of his supporters are turning out to be?

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