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Monday, March 31, 2008
The Clinton Coalition and the Democratic Party

Big Tent Democrat asks a question I've been thinking lately myself: Why are the Clinton-haters intent on destroying the Democratic Party?

let's assume the worst of Clinton and ignore the damage people like Josh Marshall have done and continue to do. Why don't we play that game with Clinton haters like Marshall? Do they hate Clinton so much that they will destroy the Democratic Party to make sure Clinton has no chance to win the nomination? Would they rather insure Dems lose Florida and Michigan in November instead of honoring the will of the voters in Florida and Michigan in a revote? Do they hate Clinton more than they care about the Democratic Party?
It's good that Sen. Clinton is a tough woman; few politicians have to experience this vile behavior from their so called allies. Luckily, the Obama campaign has seemed to change tracks and have laid off the calls for Sen. Clinton to withdraw.

A lot of people suggest that continue competition gives John McSame a free pass. They are wrong. As the folks over at Direct Democracy observe, if both Democrats commit to the issues, and if the Obama campaign would honor the primary results of Florida and Michigan, or schedule a revote, then it is all for the good.

As we saw yesterday with the candidates' respective speeches on the economy, this primary race does not preclude running against McCain and as we also saw yesterday, if Clinton does choose to try to win by tearing Barack Obama down instead of making her own case to voters in a constructive way, the superdelegates, which hold the key to both candidates' paths to the nomination, will turn on her. But ultimately if Democrats who are concerned that Clinton will take this all the way to the convention really want to make sure this ends before July 1, as Howard Dean has now called for, they'll urge Barack Obama to back remedies for Michigan and Florida. The idea that Barack Obama can claim a clear win without two states that early in the process would have gone handily to Senator Clinton is absurd. This IS her rationale for taking this to the convention, so anyone who would like to avoid that eventuality should get behind an alternative for those states. Gov. Richardson? Sen. Dodd? Sen. Leahy? Sen. Obama?

Why are so many people who support Obama insistent on mocking the votes of women, the white working class, and Hispanics? As Anglachel observes, Sen. Clinton has assembled one of the most diverse coalitions in Democratic history and yet is accused of racism:
[T]he current campaign reminds me of 1968 all over again, except that the targets of the high-minded ire are so unlike the caricatures being painted that I’m left going “WTF?” From Hillary herself as some kind of crypto-racist to Hispanic women Ohioans being compared to a 70’s era ethnic white male bigot, it just boggles the mind. The Stevenson contingent has no narrative, no political frame adequate to address the coalition that has formed around Hillary. They are left grasping at what this person represents to people who do not fall into the educated (male) wine-track or the uneducated (male) beer-track. On the other hand, I’m not sure anyone else has a clear concept of this new constituency either. What does it mean that an upper Midwest born, New England educated white woman who lived for several decades in Arkansas and now calls New York home is sweeping border state primaries and also cleaning up in Florida, California and Massachusetts? What part of the Democratic imagination is she setting on fire?

She is creating a new coalition of voters, more diverse than the pundits are really aware of. It is different than the powerfully Southern draw that Bill had, but, given her strength in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, southern Ohio, roughly the Appalachian areas plus Oklahoma and Texas, there is definitely a Southern component. It is too easy to write it off as race due to the tremendous appeal that Obama has for AA voters, because it assumes only “Bunker” and “Bubba” stereotypical motivations (race hatred) for her supporters, and not that a large portion of people who would otherwise gladly be counted on her side are motivated by salutary racial pride to support another. Racism and ethnic prejudice exist in this country, but I refuse to reduce the political decisions of the majority of my fellow Democrats to destructive racist motives, whether in Hillary’s favor or in Obama’s.
I think political analyst Chuck Todd hit the right note when he wrote:
I would argue the Wright story turned off enough older white voters so that Obama can no longer argue that when compared with Clinton he will expand the electoral map in a general election with McCain.

Now he can simply say he will use a different map; a map that ultimately might expand for the party as a whole, even if his path to 270 is no less narrow a victory than Clinton's. It is just different....

Clinton should feel no hurry to get out. In fact, she is also making Obama a better candidate by forcing him to up his rhetoric on the economy and start working harder to woo these working class, white voters who appear to be eluding him in the Rust Belt states.

Sunday, March 30, 2008
Why Won't Sen. Obama Count People's Votes?

It's ironic that Sen. Obama is hailed as the choice of the people. While I admit that he has generated significant pop appeal, it is undeniable that almost all of his delegate lead has come from low-vote scenarios and suppression of the vote.

As three poignant examples:

(a) Sen. Obama won both the Washington caucus and the Washington primary. The cacaus he won by 20 points, but the primary, only five points, with many regions of the state going pro-Clinton. His delegate advantage here is over-pronounced.

(b) Sen. Clinton won the Texas primary vote, and Sen. Obama won the Texas caucus vote. Her margin of victory, about a 100, 000 or so in the primary, netted her fewer delegates than his margin of victory, 20, 000 or so. To further inflame matters, the Wyoming caucus gave Obama a 2,066-vote margin, but a big enough delegate boost to virtually cancel out Hillary Clinton's 329,000-vote margin in the five March races.

(c) Sen. Obama has been opposed to any solution that allows the populations of Florida and Michigan to allocate their delegates. His campaign has stuck to an even split of all the delegates as the only solution it will accept. But why not allow a popular vote, which could, in fact, go either way, determine the distribution of delegates?

Michigan and Florida, of course, are sore spots in relations between Obama and Clinton supporters. Obamanians see Clinton as an opportunist and a cheater, breaking the rules to win. I am continually puzzled by this rationale as neither candidate was to blame for the change in primary date, and, faithful to the pledge, neither candidate actively campaigned there. (Sen. Obama did run TV ads for about a week in the state of Florida, and actively used his surrogates to get people to vote uncommitted in Michigan.)

More importantly, I am shocked the DNC punished Florida and Michigan for something the party Republicans did to the state Democrats. (These Republican attempts to rig the Democratic primary contests should not be surprising given that we know (a) Rove and his friends have been interfering to bury Clinton in the primary to face a weaker opponent, (b) the RNC developed 'Republicans for Obama' outlets to push him over the top in a number of open primaries, and (c) if the Republicans could exploit Democratic anger in two key swing states (particularly ones that were to favor Clinton) they could accomplish (a) and (b).

If I am correct, my argument raised a number of key implication. (1) Why should Sen. Clinton be punished for a successful Republican stratagem? (2) Why is Obama using low turnout victories to overcome Clinton's popular vote advantage and to deny Clinton the delegates? (3) Why aren't more people pushing for a solution to Michigan and Florida?

Wayne Barrett of the HuffPo elaborates on the Republican maneuvers in Michigan and Florida:

The body count that the mainstream media has regurgitated out of Florida and Michigan is that 2.3 million Democrats voted in primaries that broke the rules, leaving the DNC with no choice but to level both villages, even if the collateral damage might include the party's prospects of carrying those disenfranchised states in November. The DNC and the MSM appear to have simultaneously concluded that even Clinton's 300,000-vote win in Florida, where both candidates competed on a level playing field, shouldn't be counted in the popular vote tally, a calculation that appears nowhere in DNC rules and turns 1.7 million Democratic voters into ghosts.

The irony is that the drumbeat for Clinton's withdrawal -- coming on the heels of her recent wins and right before what may be her biggest in Pennsylvania -- is rooted in the collapse of the effort to redo Michigan and Florida. The theory is that she should quit because there is no way she can win, and that there is no way she can win because two states she could win, at least one of which she actually did win, will not be counted until she gets out. Barack Obama would thus become the nominee -- not because of an honestly earned if precariously narrow lead in the final national vote, but because of two elections he would not let happen....

The Republican role is not some irrelevant anecdote. The DNC is charged, under its rules, to determine whether the Democrats in a noncompliant state made a "good faith" effort to abide by the party's electoral calendar, and to impose the full weight of its available penalties, namely a 100 percent takedown of a state's delegation, only if Democratic leaders in that state misbehaved. So the fact that it was Republicans who fomented the move-up of primaries in both these states to dates out-of-line with the DNC calendar is at the heart of the matter.

The rules also demand that the DNC's 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee conduct "an investigation, including hearings if necessary" into these matters. The purpose of such a probe is to figure out if Democratic leaders in a state that did move up "took all provable, positive steps and acted in good faith" to either "achieve legislative changes" to bring a state into compliance or to "prevent legislative changes" that took a state out of compliance. A DNC spokesman could not point to any real "investigation" the party conducted of the actions of "relevant Democratic party leaders or elected officials," as the rules put it. All that happened with Florida, for example, was that two representatives of the state party made a pitch for leniency immediately before the Rules Committee voted for sanctions....

If that sounds like a curious way to end a nominating contest that 30 million to 33 million voters will participate in before it's done, even stranger is that the DNC is following only some of its rules -- and that the real culprits who caused this debacle are Republicans, who are now relishing the catfight they provoked.

What [an investigatory] probe might have discovered was a [Republican] rationale for doing, at worst, what the RNC did to its own overeager primary schedulers in the same two states -- cutting the delegations by half. That's precisely the penalty specified in DNC rules, but the committee, exercising powers it certainly had the legal discretion to exercise, upped the ante as far as it could. In a bizarre reversal of public policy, the RNC, surely aware that the principal miscreants in both states were Republicans, applied a sane yet severe sanction. The Democrats opted for decapitation.

The presumption of much of the national coverage about Michigan, to start with, has been that the Dems did this one to themselves -- a presumption based, in large part, on Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm's endorsement of a January 15 vote, a date far ahead of the anticipated February 9 primary. All Clinton-backer Granholm did, however, was a sign a bill. The bill originated in a Republican-controlled Senate and passed by a 21-to-17 straight party-line vote -- with every Democrat casting a no vote.

Florida's Republican governor, Charlie Crist, is, like Granholm, seen as a prime player behind the state's acceleration of the primary calendar. But Crist isn't half the Florida story; Marco Rubio, a Jeb Bush protégé who runs the nearly 2-to-1 Republican Florida House, drove that bill through the legislature like it was a tax cut limited by law to top GOP donors.

Indeed, the tracks under this train wreck trace back, in each case, to Republican maneuvers in state legislatures, political no- man's-lands for all who've blithely dismissed the disenfranchisement of the millions of registered Florida and Michigan Democrats.

Barrett then goes on the specifics of each case.

For Michigan, he writes:

Let's start with Michigan, whose Democratic chair Mark Brewer is a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the national party and in that capacity voted to sanction Florida -- a pretty good indication that he wasn't a great champion of challenging the DNC calendar in his own state. Brewer in fact declared the Republican-sponsored move-up bill unacceptable from the start.

When it weaved its way through the divided Michigan legislature last August, only 29 of the state's 75 Democratic legislators (in the House and Senate) supported it. A week after the bill cleared the Senate over unified Democratic objections, these 29 Democrats in the House voted for it, precisely the same number that voted against it or abstained (22 and seven). It was 38 Republican yes votes in the House that made it law. While Democrats like the governor, U.S. Senator Carl Levin, and DNC committeewoman Debbie Dingell favored moving the primary date up, it was a Republican state senator, Cameron Brown, who proposed the January 15 date. Levin and Dingell only supported that date when they concluded that the DNC was allowing other states, like New Hampshire, to defy the party's prescribed schedule while threatening Michigan with sanctions if it shifted its date.

And Levin and Dingell certainly weren't calling the shots for the Democrats in the legislature. Andy Dillon, the Democratic House speaker who'd voted for the move-up initially, walked away from the early primary in November, almost a month before the DNC voted to strip the state of its delegation. When two court rulings found the move-up bill unconstitutional for technical reasons, giving Democratic state legislators who initially voted for it a chance to reconsider, they took it. Dillon and his House Democrats refused to support a bill that would've protected the January 15 date from threatened judicial cancellation by correcting the technical deficiency. The Senate, again voting along party lines, quickly adjusted the bill to the court decisions, but Dillon refused to allow a vote in the House. All of this suggests a "good faith" effort to block an early primary -- as required by DNC rules.

Had not the state's highest court overturned the earlier decisions by a 4-to-3 vote just days before absentee ballots had to be mailed out, the early primary would not have been held. Significantly, all four of the judges who voted to allow the election were Republicans, and two of the judges who voted against it were Democrats.

In fact, it was a Democratic political consultant who brought the lawsuit that almost killed the primary. While the Republican state party filed an amicus brief in support of the bill, the Democrats took a barrage of editorial potshots in the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the Flint Journal, and other papers for refusing to stand up for the state's interest. Salivating over all the attention and revenue that would come with an early primary, the papers accused Democrats of "withering," "carrying water for presidential candidates," and "blocking a bill to rescue the election." State GOP chair Saul Anuzis declared: "The Michigan Democrats and the House Democrats in particular appear willing to blow up the primary for petty, political, selfish, self-preservationist motives, to protect their hides."

Even before the court rulings, 19 Democrats in the House co-sponsored an October bill to repeal the one that authorized the election, including eight members who'd initially voted for the January 15 date. That bill was doomed from the outset since the Senate would never agree, but it was a measure of how fiercely Democrats had come to oppose the early primary. The ultimate result in Michigan, with a triumphant Clinton the only major candidate on the ballot, is, without a doubt, a Republican result.

Florida's story is more tragic.

The Republicans don't just control both houses of the Florida legislature. Their combined 103-to-57 majority allowed them to dictate the terms of the bill that moved the primary to January 29. It is true that all but one of the state's Democratic legislators supported the bill. But a closer look reveals that vote to be more an indication of a realistic and productive compromise with the ruling Republicans than any intent to breach Democratic rules.

Florida's leading news outlets, just like Michigan's, converted an early primary into a matter of state patriotism, and that point of view, coupled with the mathematical inability to even slow the Republican push, forced Democrats to roll over.

Another factor attracting Democratic votes in the legislature for the bill was one the DNC should certainly appreciate. Governor Crist threw a reform long sought by Florida Democrats into the bill: a mandatory paper trail for all votes cast in future elections. "The Democrats have been fighting for a paper trail bill since 2000," said State Senator Nan Rich, "and Governor Bush never would support it. So finally we got a governor who was willing to support it and it ended up connected to the early primary bill. That was unfortunate. If the paper trail hadn't been there, I believe we Democrats would've all voted no. Still, if all the Republicans had voted one way and all the Democrats had voted another way, the bill would've passed." (This Christmas tree bill -- whose title alone was 154 lines long -- had something special for everyone. It would even enable Crist to run as John McCain's vice presidential candidate, revoking a ban against state officials running for federal office.)

But "the driving force behind the move," as the Tampa Tribune put it, was 36-year-old House speaker Marco Rubio, who announced that pushing the primary up was a top goal before he took over the House at the start of 2006. Branded a "Jeb acolyte" by the Florida press, Rubio, a Cuban from West Miami married to a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, was given a gold samurai sword by Bush in a passing-of-the-conservative-mantle gesture in 2005. Rubio is a member of a wired Florida law firm whose chairman is so close to Bush that he rushed down to the county jail when the governor's daughter Noelle was arrested on a drug-related charge. When Rubio's term as speaker ends later this year, he is slated to go to work for a think tank headed by a Jeb Bush business associate. The primary bill originated with Rubio and ultimately passed the House unanimously -- but only after Democrats made what they knew would be a losing effort to alter it.

Martin Kiar and Mary Brandenburg, House Democrats who were cosponsors of the bill, tried to amend it. "We offered an amendment on the floor shifting the date to one within the Democratic party rules," said Brandenburg. "The Democrats all voted for it, and Republicans all voted against it." Actually, the Kiar/Brandenburg proposal did not completely comply with DNC directives, but it was a signal of the concerns Florida Dems had about the move-up legislation. Said Kiar: "No matter what, whether we supported it or cosponsored it, the Republican majority was going to push it through."

When the DNC sanctioned Florida, it critiqued the efforts of the Democratic leaders in both houses, suggesting that they'd merely gone through the motions of feigned opposition. But the House cosponsor of the bill, David Rivera, literally laughed on the floor at the Democratic amendment, according to the House Democrats. Going through the motions was all the outgunned Democrats could do. A DNC critic of Florida Democrats was reduced in a recent New York Times op-ed to citing remarks supporting the early primary made by state leaders after it was a fait accompli, likely because she couldn't make a case about their conduct before the Republican legislature set the date.

If you think that this whole DNC process has been unfair, sign the petition.

Thursday, March 27, 2008
The Hillary Bloggers

A few weeks back, due to the increasingly partisan and demeaning nature of the net roots conversation, a group of pro-Clinton or even-handed bloggers staged a writer's strike/boycott.

I wanted to recognize these differing viewpoints on my blog, for regular visitors who are looking for other sources of news. These blogs have been my solace as MSNBC goes off the deep end in its reiteration of the pro-Obama talking points. Often, I would even know that Clinton was doing anything positive until I read it on the Internet. If I had only listened to the news television, I would be under the impression that the only thing the Clinton campaign had done since Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island was (a) lose Mississippi and Wyoming, (b) smear Obama as a Muslim, (c) lie about her Bosnia experience, (d) get condemned for breaking apart the party by Gov. Richardson, and (e) fan flames of race-hatred on the Wright-controversy and former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.

[In fact, Sen. Clinton has been (a) campaigning in Indiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, (b) giving major speeches on the economy and the Iraq war during the whole Wright episode, (c) releasing key documents from her White House years, (d) giving a lot of press interviews to local and national presses, (e) being endorsed by elected, formerly elected, and party Democrats in West Virginia, California, Pensyvlania as well as by the Liberty City Democrats (a GLTBQ organization in PA), Rep. Murtha, and Sen. Evan Bayh (he was an early supporter), (f) defending Florida and Michigan, (h) superior foreign policy credentials defended by Ambassador Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, and (i) attending crucial and under appreciated women's events.]

This unbalanced coverage of Sen. Clinton must come to end, and Democrats have to save the Democratic Party from the DNC. Please sign this petition to seat Michigan and Florida's delegates (remember we need to run a 50-state strategy against Sen. John McSame) and please donate 10.44 to the Clinton campaign to get her message out there about the positive benefits of the Democratic Party's platform for American voters in the fall.

Here are my esteemed list of the bloggers holding down the fort of fair or Pro-Clinton news coverage.

Taylor Marsh, a journalist and insightful American politics watcher from Missouri, a bellweather state. She re-informed me with her sometimes unconventional, but never uninformed writings. More importantly, she's often ahead of the curve.

Tom Watson
, who, in his own words, offers " an iconoclastic view, my own perception of reality. No one pays me to write it, and all editorial judgments are mine. You don't have to agree; indeed, agreement here is kind of rare. But let's try to argue about it with civility."

Sugar-N-Spice, one of my favorite bloggers, is a black female supporter of Sen. Clinton, who wondered why so many people drank the kool aid of Sen. Obama. Her background gives her license to say a lot of things that other people can't say, but are thinking, about the Obama candidacy.

The River Daughters
are truly inspiration people who intertwine their analysis and insights with personal anecdotes from their lives. I started volunteering my time because of them. They call people out and I love them for it.

Another very informative blog, No Quarter, tries to ferret out false-hoods and replace lies with truth. Live on, Larry Johnson, live on.

Talk Left, one of the few blogs to call out the United States as the prison society that it is, is also broadly sympathetic to, but critical of, Sen. Clinton. True leftists who rigourously theorize the present for the purposes of furthering a progressive agenda. (I wonder if they ever supporter Edwards?) Always, always informative offering detailed arguments and empirical proof.

Tennessee Guerrilla Women offer an awesome blog that deprograms rightist ideologies. They have taken Sen. Obama to task for his mad and unethical pursuit of the Democratic nomination.

MyDD, another progressive community, is also unabashedly leftist. They too wonder often why the mainstream media is so easily bamboozled by young charismatic men.

Jon Swift is a conservative who calls 'em like he see 'em. That's not always in Sen. Clinton's favor, but unlike most news sources, he hasn't gone out of his way to bash her either.

The Left Coaster is a decidedly anti-elitist blogging community that prides itself on thumbing its nose as the mainstream and Beltway political communities.

Buck Naked Politics
lives up to its name of strips off the gloss of spin on the news provided a deeply convinced leftist view of the world.

Anglachel I justed started reading. It's very fascinating.

And, Salon, as a replacement for Slate. Slate, who, since Iowa, have all but crowned Barack Obama, should also be boycotted. (Especially those earnest bloggers on XX Factor.)

The Democratic Primary, a Clinton Nomination, and A Growing Rift in the Party

I should have known in 2007 when Sen. Obama (ironically) uttered: "I'm confident that I can get Sen. Clinton's votes if I win the nomination, but I'm not confident that she can get mine" would be prophetic about the way he would run his campaign. Trying to discredit Clinton at every turn--even going so far as a week before the Texas-Ohio-Rhode Island-Vermont vote to look petulantly at a new camera and say when she loses either Texas or Ohio, we should really consider moving forward with this nomination, Sen. Obama's campaign has degenerated for character attacks to character assassination.

I've really become weary of Sen. Obama's presumptiveness, and his continued "clarifications" of his statements. The Obama candidacy is based on two main arguments (1) a new brand of politics, and (2) opposition to both the Iraq war and the thinking that got us into the war.

Since Super Tuesday I, it has become exceedingly clear that neither are true. Obama is not practicing new politics-- in fact, his campaign has been running an aggressively negative campaign against Sen. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, stooping so low as to attack her even his campaign emails--and is mired in his continued misstatements on core Democratic issues like universal health care, withdrawing from the Iraq war, or rethinking NAFTA while maintain free trade. As more time has passed, the media has slowly reported that Obama has been a poor national and state senator--often skipping key meetings, votes, and not exercising his basic legislative duties. More importantly, many of his key ideas were lifted from other politicians, reducing "change you can believe in" to "change we can xerox" and "change we can talk about."

Second, if Sen. Obama is the anti-war candidate, why have key members of the Out-of-Iraq caucus--that is, those members of the House of Representatives who have opposed this war consistently with their votes and voices since they were elected--endorsed and defended Sen. Clinton? They are joined by five former general and flag officers at the rank of four stars, including two former chairmen and one vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Apparently, these people are not getting the message that the race is over and the only Obama can truly bring peace.

I want to quote some of Rep. Murtha's endorsement because many are refusing to see this: "Senator Clinton is the candidate that will forge a consensus on health care, education, the economy, and the war in Iraq...Her experience and careful consideration of these issues convinced me that she is best qualified to lead our nation and to bring credibility back to the White House." I want to note that Sen. Murtha, who announced just days for Gov. Richardson, had weeks early pledged to remain neutral.

I mention all this because it has become that Sen. Clinton should be pushed aside. Characterizing her as a Tanya Harding, Americans are subjected to endless declarations about "the math" as the media continues to stump for Obama. As a black (male) independent who supports Clinton, and as a voter who doesn't want another Republican administration, I wanted to echo some thoughts of the others out there who are getting it right.

This is from Anglachel:

My post yesterday called out the degree of violence, particularly misogynistic violence, present in the current Democratic contest. However, the characterization of Democrats who would not support the Democratic nominee in the general as "infantile" has stuck with me. I'm dropping the snark for a post and really looking at what blind spots are demonstrated through this stance. My point is not to criticize a particular blogger (richly though he may deserve it), but to get into the center of some profound self-deceptions going on with people all over the Left over the nature of political legitimacy.

Declaring people unwilling to support the nominee "infantile" is a very poor way of looking at the emerging dynamic of the race, though it would have been an appropriate chastisement prior to any of the caucuses or primaries. At that time, both Edwards and Obama publically refused to commit to supporting Hillary (which equates to telling their supporters not to vote for her) should she be the nominee. That was the point at which a slap should have been administered and not to HRC. I do not remember the Blogger Boyz complaining about this language when it was assumed the person being penalized by such threats was Hillary.

The fundamental problem with categorically labeling Hillary voters as infantile is that it takes as true the elite pundit meme that she and her supporters are illegitimate participants in the process, the equivalent of Ralph Nader and his adherents. This initial error is further compounded by assuming that those who will refuse to vote for Obama are simply a small group of delusional HRC supporters, though the vehemence with which the prospect of voter defections is being met belies that public stance. There are two increasingly overlapping groups of voters who are likely to defect from the Democratic column in November, and they illustrate two ways in which Obama has lost political legitimacy.

Taking up the first issue, the presumption of the punditocracy that we all know that a Hillary victory cannot be for real, has ironically enough become the foundation of Obama’s lack of legitimacy, but has expanded to include the Democratic Party itself. This crisis brewed for some time, but took form when HRC was not permitted a level playing field in the campaign. The refusal to grant her equal footing may have begun with the MSM, which has always hated her, but they were soon joined by progressive blogs and the other campaigns, producing a phalanx of elite opinion trying to delegitimize her at every step. The signature moment was the Drexel debate where Obama and Edwards took up Russert’s invitation to batter her in front of the cameras and then played the victims afterwards by claiming that Hillary was playing a “gender card”.

To those several million people who support Hillary or who at least regarded her favorably, this pointed attack upon her as a person as well as a candidate, coupled with the relatively gentle treatment granted the other candidates, had the effect of solidifying a great deal of our support. To declare her unworthy of participating, a monster who would “do anything to win,” was seen for what it was, straightforward demonization of a perfectly acceptable candidate, one with a deep well of support and an enviable record of public service. We simply don’t accept the elite framing of our candidate.

When A-list bloggers begin to lecture HRC supporters about having to grow up and not be infantile, they just dig themselves into a deeper hole, because they trivialize and mock our considered support for her. The arguments they offer up about her – duplicitous, hateful, cold, power-mad, disliked, criminal – are straight out of the Rightwing sewer, do little save undermine the validity of their own stances.

Then, there was the comment from Obama that he knew all the Hillary supporters would vote for him, but he didn’t think she could get his. What incredible offensiveness, to claim that he could take my vote for granted. It dismissed the fact that, were he to become the nominee, he would then have to ask for the support of those who had not selected him the first time around, and thus put in a position of providing reasons to vote for him to the people he casually dismissed.

Thus, among HRC supporters, the effect of this particular campaign has been to erode the legitimacy not of our candidate but of Obama. As polling shows, his presumption that he automatically inherited her supporters has been proved untrue, in great part because he assumed that no one could really support that “monster”.

The second issue, which is interwoven with the first and is, in my opinion, a far greater problem for the party as such, has to do with the treatment of rank and file Democrats who vote for Hillary. As shown in exit polls, these voters are the bulk of the Democrats who voted (as opposed to all who participate), people for whom being a Democrat is a part of their personal as well as political identity. Falling support for Obama among this group is a more recent phenomenon, one that he might have been reversing in mid-February but which is trending down with every poll. There is some anger here over the treatment of Hillary, but even more it is rejection of Obama himself as a candidate due to his own actions and statements. At a slightly deeper level, it is an upsurge of the latent resentment and distrust between the so-called “tracks” in the party – beer and wine – the shorthand way of identifying the significant social and economic and increasingly gender stratification of the Democratic Party.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post (can’t remember which one), the sour note that Obama has struck with this constituency is the sore spot of anti-Americanism, the constant attack point of Republicans on the Democrats, and the way in which Obama simply is not able to credibly counter that threat. It is also the case after the Wright disaster that these Democrats don’t believe that Obama is patriotic enough. It wasn’t Wright’s racism but his cursing of the nation that has gone down sideways. On top of this is the perception that he does not care much for “the little guy” (the NAFTA waffling, the lack of serious legislative achievements), and the foundation for his own legitimacy becomes narrow and unstable.

There is a deep irony here. In Obama’s set piece speeches he excels at tapping into the leftwing version of the patriotic narrative, about equality, justice and opportunity. This was the power of his keynote speech in 2004. But the promise of that speech has not been present in the candidate. The spousal unit sums it up in a single sentence – he ran too soon. He did not give himself the time to distance himself from the Chicago mess (political, financial, religious) and put some substantive national level public service under his belt. In some ways, the Chicago power base has insulated Obama from the conundrums of running a Democratic campaign in a centrist nation.

This is a lesson both Bill and Hillary Clinton have learned. Big Dog got his ass handed to him his first reelection bid in Arkansas because he came across as too elite and alien to the population, too eager to push his agenda and not inclined to listen to what people told him. In a word, arrogance. You don’t run as a member of the liberal elite in middle America. You cannot be perceived as having contempt for the people whose votes you need. Hillary faced this in upstate New York, plus even more baggage – carpetbagger, outsider, Billary monster, favorite punching bag of the right – and some real Republican opponents. She did it the hard way, by demonstrating her work for the voters of the state, won the first election, then busted her chops for her constituents, and had a blow-out reelection. She certainly has legitimacy in New York.

Back to the race. The rank and file Democrats who have favorable attitudes towards the Clintons and also for McCain look at Obama and see someone running a negative campaign and who appears to disdain the nation. The mix of pocketbook issues with a straightforward and direct love of country is not favoring him with these voters. The more they hear, the less they are inclined to support.

Then we get into the recent events of the campaign. Florida and Michigan are the contests where actual legitimacy for the candidates and thus the eventual nominee will be founded. A 48 state strategy is not viable if those two are not part of the 48. In these places, Hillary voters are being written off, dismissed as illegitimate voices in the process. The insistence on only one aspect of the rules, the penalty, while ignoring the full set of rules that could be used to manage the situation is eroding Obama’s claims to legitimacy because people don’t care about arcane party rules. They want their votes to count. The acts by Obama to prevent a revote have done nothing to increase his standing with ordinary voters, let alone strong Clinton partisans. This does not make him attractive to people who will have to switch their allegiance should Hillary not be the nominee. Conversely, her insistence on having votes counted will earn her greater legitimacy as well as benefit her with extra delegates.

In Ohio and Texas, the lack of respect for the opposition combined with a lack of legislative track record has cost Obama the victories he needed to shore up his legitimacy as a credible general election candidate and to counterbalance the problems raised by not counting Florida and Michigan. The sneer about Ohio voters who failed to vote for him as “Archie Bunkers” was a slur that every solid Democrat understands. He was calling those voters stupid racist bigots. Then we got the Wright controversy, which has simply added more fuel to the perception of Obama as an elitist liberal who does not honor his country or respect his countrymen.

Obama has rudely lost the good regard of Democrats like me. The hysteria and hate of the elite punditocracy who have declared me and my candidate to be illegitimate in an attempt to bully her supporters, while giving him a free ride, cannot be rewarded. The Democratic Party is choosing to declare Hillary voters to be expendable (can’t count your vote if it would change the outcome of the race) and of lesser worth than Obama supporters. And all of this is being viewed with increasing disgust by a growing number of Democratic voters.

The candidate with the legitimacy problem in this campaign is Obama, not Hillary.
I lastly wanted to provide another thought provoking quote from another blog that calls 'em like she sees 'em. We've heard from Sen. Kerry about how we should support Obama because he is black, from Andrew Sullivan about his face, and from others how Obama proves that the American dream is real. What we haven't heard about as much is how deeply transformative of gendered power relations--and entrenched misogyny in the mainstream media--a Clinton presidency will be.

One of the other great tragedies of this primary election season is the setting aside of what a Hillary Clinton nomination would mean for the little girls--black, white, hispanic, asian and everything in between, in this country and the world. I'm constantly bombarded with the, "think of what this would mean for little black boys" pleas from my fellow African-Americans, but I always walk away thinking to myself, "but, what about little girls?"

Women have been carrying the weight of this world on their shoulders from sea to shining sea, from one side of the globe to another and yet, so often we are raised believing that there will always be a limit to what we can achieve. An Obama win would be historic and it would indeed mean something to little black boys and little black girls, but a Hillary win would mean something to little black girls and little white girls and little hispanic girls and little asian girls. It would mean that the women in Sudan may turn their hearts towards a new hope on the world stage. A hope that maybe finally, with a woman in charge of one of the most powerful nations in the world, things might get better. It would mean that women in India, where two in three married women is the victim of domestic violence, might finally have the courage and receive the resources they need to leave those horrific conditions.

So many women all over the world are watching the United States to see how we treat the first truly viable female presidential candidate. Whether we want to acknowledge or not, little girls right here in this country are watching too. They hear the conversations where Hillary is called a bitch and God knows everything in between as she speaks on television. What do those little girls see her doing, that warrants her being called a bitch? Simply making an attempt at greatness. What will make them yearn to make the attempt when their time comes after watching the way this woman has been vilified? As I write this, the song, "Little Girl" by the singing duo, Mary Mary, comes to mind and it explains so very plainly why little girls need not be forgotten in this primary season any longer. Check out the very touching video that a user at YouTube put together using the song below.

We've got a lot of work left to do and Hillary will need a lot of money to be a real contender in the next several contests. Even a donation of $10.44 (the 44 is for her presidency!) helps her efforts. Click here to make a donation and then send Hillary a message of support. So much is riding on this election.
I've had enough of the disrespecting of this woman who has worked hard to ensure that many people have the chance to achieve their God-given potential.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A More Perfect Election: How Obama’s Speech Won the Nomination and possibly the Presidency in a Single Stroke.

No doubt those who believe that today’s polls are 100% predictive of primary elections weeks and months in the future believe that either Obama has forever lost his bid to win the nomination and certainly eliminated himself from contention in a general election battle with John McCain. Some might even say that if poll numbers do not significantly change in the next few days, Obama’s speech failed in its mission to reassure voters who are upset about his long term association with Rev. Wright. More on why that’s a misguided line of thinking below, first there is some structure and existing fact to contend with.

Unless the “comeback kids” can pull a legendary political maneuver there will be no “
redo” in either Michigan or Florida. This, as the punditry has pointed out, is devastating for Clinton’s ability to appeal to super delegates. Even if the DNC accept Florida delegation as is, Obama would still lead Clinton by 400,000 in the popular vote and almost everyone agrees, with the exception of Pennsylvania, Obama will win or be close in all 12 of the remaining Democratic primaries/caucuses. There’s a ton of evidence that indicates neither Hillary’s “big states matter in the fall” message nor her pleas for “voter’s rights” are achieving any traction in the media or among the American people. And thank goodness for that, because those positions make no sense. Hillary’s win in large primary states were not so substantial that they suggested Ohioans or Californians would not vote for the Democratic nominee in fall. Exit polls (at the time) indicate that most voters would be more than happy with either candidates and, as has been mentioned on this blog, the two candidates are as one in terms of policy. It must be added that the symmetry between their policy decisions does not reflect Obama’s ability to “xerox” policy proposals from Clinton; it reflects both candidates knowledge of Democratic political history as both policies fall in line with the policy traditions that worked for F.D.R’s New Deal but did not work for Johnson’s Great Society.

With that said, unless Clinton wants to join the anti-Rev Wright bandwagon and use that as a justification for superdelegate’s overriding the popular vote and pledged delegate count, there’s little more she can do at this point to make a case that she’s a more viable candidate than Obama. And unfortunately for Clinton, the last week has eliminated a series of her principal critics against Obama: That he has not been challenged, we don’t know who he is, that the media has treated him with soft gloves and that he has not proven he can be a fighter. Check, check, check and double check. The orgy of sensationalism and irresponsible media coverage of the Rev. Wright scandal has had an effect on how Americans see Obama. For some, this was there first close look at a candidate and in a society where African Americans are judged collectively to a degree incomparable with white Americans, that first glance could not have been a pretty one.

Thankfully, A More Perfect Union was not only the perfect response by Obama to this growing scandal it also offered the American people a true choice about their political system, about how leaders and leadership is evaluated and what issues “matter” in an election cycle. First and most importantly, is Obama’s decision to not “disavow” or “completely renounce in every way, Rev. Wright.” Political strategists around the world must have watched Obama through trembling fingers as he said the following:

Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

The risk and reward here is in Obama’s willingness to use Wright to throw a mirror at the American people, linking his religious and emotional experience to a politic that so often imagines itself as in a different social and cultural world than their political candidates. This isn’t the fault of American citizens. The allures of power and prestige often pull people from the population who do imagine themselves as above or greater than everyday American citizens. Politicians replicate this skewed view by actively participating in political campaigning that test’s a campaigns ability to manage image rather than manage policy options and make a case to the American people. The ever escalating costs of the election cycle substantially limit who can afford to run, not just in terms of funds, but in time off from work and home life. Yet, Obama has attempted to cut through that, asking people to be self reflexive and ask themselves how they react when they hear a controversial or fiery message from a religious leader in their community with which they do not agree. I believe, in the long term such a strategy can be effective for a few reasons. First, there’s a segment of the electorate who is hungry for people who are “real” who will speak honestly and plainly about their own faults and the faults of those around them, this message is hugely appealing to them. Second, there’s a segment of the electorate who is religious and heard these kinds of messages and had that cringe moment and who stayed in their church. Here Obama is specifically appealing to younger voters.

Obama shines the social mirror on the public even brighter in the following section.

The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.”

There’s much more here than asking people to “forgive” or “understand” Wright. He’s inviting people to think about their own journeys of self discovery and their own development of political ideology. Like many people in their twenties when Obama met Wright he had to be impressed by his ability to create a huge religious, community service organization despite meager beginnings and a life history where he experienced intense levels of overt and institutional racism. No doubt over the course of his time at Trinity Obama began to evolve beyond certain aspects of the Reverend’s ideology, particularly the parts rooted in a logic that understands America as, in Obama’s words, “static.” Young voters going through similar periods of self discovery will strongly relate. Generation X will perhaps relate even more as they realize how far they have come from their ways of thinking and believing since their twenties.

There are of course, huge risks, with this strategy. Many Americans, particularly when it comes to race but it extends to foreign policy and the defense of class difference, are defensive as all get out when it comes to these issues. The audacity of being associated with Rev. Wright could dig Obama a deeper hole with people who wanted to see contrition, remorse and “disowning.” And while I agree with Roland Martin’s brilliant observation that nothing about these calls for “disownment” are in synch with a Christian philosophy of love and forgiveness, it’s not even about that. If individuals are unable to emotionally relate to the numerous semi-biographical/historical narratives about himself, Wright and the politics of race in America then they made their minds up before he spoke and would, very likely, not vote for any African American President for office. Unless you have cut yourself off completely from the African American community you can not totally divorce yourself from this brand of Black ideology and you can not win the Black vote as a Black candidate.

Brilliantly, Obama called this segment of the population out towards the end of his speech, declaring that Americans are free to treat this campaign as a one issue referendum on race, if they so choose. I fully expect him to treat the issue with increasing insignificance over the coming months. Ideally, if questioned on the matter he will take a truly Presidential tone and declare that he has spoken on the issue, the video exists, the transcript is out there and if voters have continued questions once viewing the speech that there’s not much he can do. Between now and November, Wright will remain part of the public discourse, he must. As Obama pointed out, race can not be ignored, it’s too endemic to our culture. But what will happen is some Americans will look at the economy, the war and healthcare and say “I care about these issues more than I care about Rev. Wright.” It is, in every way, the ultimate test of voter’s ability to truly stomach a Black President. Not the most Anglophiled person with Black or brown skin who parrots negative stereotypes about African Americans back to white audiences(J.W. Watts, Clarence T. etc) to demonstrate their subservience to conservative white perspective on the world. But an African American person whose love for their country is unwavering and intermixed with a knowledge of the nation’s racial faults and faultlines. I don’t know what will happen, but I think it can not be argued that Obama failed to lay down the gauntlet, or to stand up for himself or to declare to the American people “this is who I am, either vote or not.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The Strategic Politics of Negative Campaigning

Clearly, I am going to have to say something about Sen. Obama's "major speech" on race today. As a black independent who is supporting Sen. Clinton, but also recognizes the important of a black presidential nominee, I'm sure I'll have something to say a little later. I think it's important to think about the way in which racial politics and discourses frame how people understand disparity, agency, and identity in modern America.

My initial reaction is that Obama has correctly used his speech-making gifts to try and tone down the race-related rhetoric, and, if reports are to be believed, will join the move Sen. Clinton made yesterday in talking about the other issues in the campaign (Iraq, the economy, etc) in an effort to change the subject. What the speech does not accomplish, laudable though it is, is the fact that Sen. Obama, who based his campaign on "superior judgment" as a substitute if not superior trade for 'experience', has made numerous egregious and rookie political mistakes. (1) Two principles advisers playing wink-wink with the foreign press on two critical issues (NAFTA and Iraq War), (2) Susan Rice admits that Obama is unprepared to be commander-in-chief (although accused Sen. Clinton of the same thing), (3) Obama's ties to, and changing non-disclosures about, the Chicago-based Rev. Wright and Tony Rezko, and (4) receiving a sub-committee chairmanship that has oversight over NATO and (exercising his judgment by) choosing to do nothing, and learning little, about the other war going on: the war in Afghanistan.

Fortunately, on the daily conference calls that each political team has with reporters, the Clinton campaign has not touched or raised the the Wright-Obama issue. A lot of people believe--due the negative attacks started by Sen. Obama (with Republican and conservative help) early last year and perfected by Sen. Edwards in November and December--that Sen. Clinton and her team will "do or say anything" to get elected, a charge that is obviously unfair. (Her candidacy has to end for anyone else's, either McCain or Obama's, to begin. If she wins, she's almost unstoppable.) Her team's action--unlike those of the right-wing pundits--to not push this issue I think are a clear testament of her integrity as a candidate and history as a progressive reformer.

And although, as I am finding out through some back reading, Obama specializes in strategic character assassination--making the other guy unelectable while organizing the elements that are opposed to the more established candidates under the rhetoric of change, younger generations, and new politics--as a way of encouraging implosions within establishment candidacies, Sen. Clinton's team taking the high road these past few weeks are points in her favor. In this particular case, trying to paint the Clintons in general, and Sen. Clinton in particular, as a racist is one of the ultimate knock-out moves in a Democratic primary.

The negative campaigning, by former Sen. Edwards and Sen. Obama, relative to the recent negative campaigning of Sen. Clinton has become the subject of controversy. Igniting new appeals after her March 5 primary victories in Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas to leave the race because she is damaging the prospects of the Democrats to win in November, many pundits are suggesting that Clinton campaign is handing McCain talking points.

David Epstein has offered some very interesting observations about negative campaigning in primaries and caucuses:

Take a primary campaign in which one candidate is more extremist relative to the national distribution of voters (e.g., Obama), and the other more moderate (e.g., Clinton). Then negative attacks by the more extremist candidate are less damaging to the party in the national election than negative attacks by the moderate.

Why? Because the attacks by the extremist (taking the Obama-Clinton example) are of the form "Your positions are too far right." So Obama says that Clinton is too hawkish on the war. This is an attack that makes sense in a Democratic primary, but it's certainly not one that McCain will repeat in the general election; if anything, it helps her in November.

But Hillary attacks Obama by saying that he's too dovish, not experienced enough for the tough foreign policy challenges that he would face as president (this is the real message of the 3AM telephone call ad). This is an attack that McCain would certainly repeat and that damages Obama as a general election candidate.

I note this asymmetry not to make value judgments, but just because it's interesting and I hadn't heard it mentioned before. It does clarify a few elements of the current situation, though. To start with, it helps remind us that in a way Obama has been running a negative campaign from the very beginning, saying that Clinton was wrong on Iraq and he was right. In fact, I see his entire policy strategy as copying Clinton on every other major issue, so that these are a draw, and winning on Iraq. (There's also the old politics vs. Yes We Can dimension, but let's not go there now.) Obama hasn't received much flack for these attacks, partly because they bolster Hillary's image as a hawk, which she will certainly want to project in the national election once she's the nominee.

On the other hand, Hillary has to walk a finer line when she attacks Obama, because she's making many of the same points that any Republican opponent would. So she gets accused of disregarding the party's overall interests, sometimes fairly (she absolutely should not be saying that McCain is a better leader than Obama; that's heresy), sometimes not. But the rules are different for her, to some degree because she's Hillary and a Clinton, and to some degree because of the geometry of the situation.

Anyway, these are my early thoughts.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More Schizophrenia from the Clinton Campaign. The Cost? Democrats Success Post November.

I find it hard to believe that no one in the Hillary campaign management has seen The Contender, a 2000 political thriller starring Joan Allen that asked audiences, what would happen if a woman became president? Yet this movie wasn’t about a Presidential campaign. Rather the premise was built upon the unexpected death of the Vice President and the political fallout of President’s (played by the ever charming and handsome Jeff Bridges) decision to select Joan’s character as the Veep, leading to Senate Confirmation fights, intrigue and Richard Dreyfuss rendering scenery asunder with his teeth. Throughout the film Allen’s qualification for Vice President are brushed under the rug as irrelevant. Rather, the drama circles around her qualification/worthiness to ascend to President of the United States and the pre-9/11 “controversy” of proposing that a woman could be Prez. Indeed, no President would choose a Vice President unless they genuinely believed them prepared to assume the Presidency at a moments notice.

Yet as they have done throughout 2008, the Clinton camp is sending out a series of contradictory messages about Barack Obama and this later bout of bi-polar campaigning has begun to target Democrat’s chances to win the white house. Both Bill and Hillary have begun to make entreaties to the Obama camp, suggesting they would love to see him on the ticket as Vice President. Ignoring the audacity of proposing such a “compromise” when behind in the popular vote, pledged delegates and state count, the campaign’s “hints” at a joint ticket are often paired with a series of arguments as to why Obama is unqualified to be President. Yes, seriously. Are the Clintons unaware that the most important function of the Vice President is that they are next in line for the Presidency? This inability to plan past next week is further evidence of the Clintons “win at all costs” strategy.

The problem for Hillary is that she does not realize the painful truth that she would be a much more effective vice president than Barack Obama would. As my mom said so eloquently over dinner last night, “Presidents are *supposed* to inspire. Why would the Party of F.D.R and J.F.K try and downplay the importance of inspirational rhetoric from the White House? Hillary is just mad because she’s a technocrat, not a leader.” I could not have put it better myself. As President of the Senate and, no doubt, the most powerful VP since Dick Cheney, Clinton would burn the midnight, oil and fight in all the ways necessary to get Senators to bend to her will. But she can not hope to employ the kinds of popular capital from Americans that will be critical to shout down the Pentagon’s inevitable resistance to withdrawal. More importantly, as the U.S. enters a recession and the Democrats hinge their economic plan on short term sacrifice in the form of taxation in order to reap benefits long term from a “green” reconstruction of American economic systems, a President who inspires people towards loftier long term goals is required. In the Second New Deal and into World War II, FDR established what historian Mark Leff calls the “rhetoric of sacrifice” an intense multi level P.R. effort that linked Americans economic sacrifices (Buy war bonds! Save rubber! Don’t eat sugar!) with long term victory overseas and increasedprosperity at home. And it worked. Defying decades of ineffective Presidents, F.D.R was able to motivate the American people to fix the Depression and win the war by inspiring them. Yet as the Clinton campaign continues to limit the impact of inspirational rhetoric, argue that John McCain is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama they hogtie the Democratic agenda and ensure that either an Obama or Clinton presidency will be unable to “work” or “hope” for substantive change.

Saturday, March 08, 2008
Clinton vs. McCain: An Electoral College Analysis

What does a Clinton-McCain national match-up look like? We already know that the Clinton campaign is good at winning the big states in elections, so I decided to run the most likely scenario of a Clinton led Democratic ticket. I then throw a Clinton-Obama ticket for kicks.

Here are the states that the Democrats can expect to win against McCain with Clinton in the lead( electoral college votes follow the state). Remember that 271 are needed.

California 55
Illinois 21
New York 31
Michigan 17
Ohio 20
Washington 11
Oregon 7
Minnesota 10
Wisconsin 10
Maryland 10
Delaware 3
Pennsylvania 21
New Jersey 15
Connecticut 7
Rhode Island 4
Massachusetts 12
Vermont 3
Maine 4
Hawaii 4

This represents a total of 261 of the 271 needed for victory. (Obama does not poll well in the industrial states other than Illinois.)

These are the additional states that she puts into play:
New Mexico 5
Nevada 5
Arkansas 6
Missouri 11
West Virginia 5
Virginia 13
Florida 27
Missouri 11
Tennessee 11

Any two of these will put her over the top, and any three will secure her victory. Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri seem like the best bets.

In addition, here are the toss ups since John McCain is the opponent (only including those states that could swing either way with McCain in the race):

New Hampshire 4
Texas 34
Iowa 7

If it were a Clinton-Obama ticket, here are the additional states he puts into play:

North Carolina 15
South Carolina 8
Georgia 15
Louisiana 9
Kansas 6
Colorado 9

The Clinton-Obama ticket probably makes Florida and Missouri guarentees, giving the Democrats the election handily at 299 of 271.

Regarding the House of Representatives and the Senate, Clinton's coattails should put the following states in play: New Mexico, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, California, Michigan, and Nevada. (I can get a list of vacant seats in the House and Senate from somewhere as well.) We don't yet know about Ohio or Pennsylvania yet, but Gov. Ed Rendell (PA) has endorsed her.

This is the scenario that the super-delegates should be thinking about. It would be odd to allow the candidate who has lost California, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Okalahoma by substantial margins to clinch the Democratic nomination based on caucus wins in Kansas, Nebraska, and Idaho, coupled with a combination of white independent/Republican and an understandably skewed black vote in South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, and Virginia primaries. In other words, "if Obama does somehow manage to become the nominee, the Democrats may well turn out to have pulled a Dukakis (Mondale, McGovern) once again. They'll be sending the candidate who lost in their primaries all the states they must win in the general election, and the one utterly without a resume, to do battle against the party that has dominated presidential election contests since World War II and a candidate who is a legitimate national hero."

Clinton, on the other hand, will bring in the Democratic stongholds as well as reach deeply into the Republican safe and border states, giving Democrats control of the executive.

UPDATE: Ezra Klein has this, which is similar to my exercise but predicts different numbers.

Why Sen. Clinton's Nomination Won't Kill the Democratic Chances of Victory

Can the Democrats afford a Clinton victory? Yes, we can. Even from a brokered convention.

First of all, the traditional, and most reliable, part of the Democratic base (with the exception of African-Americans) has consistently supported Clinton.

Second, "new voters" are a myriad bunch. There are at least two kinds of new voters. The first is partisans: young people who have become energized by the politics of the last eight years. These people generally graduated college in the wake of the dot com bust and the war on terror: 2000-2006. Some of have become partisans of the left and others of the right. Partisans of the left will support any Democrat. (You don't become energized and then just leave.)

The second kind are the post-partisans. These people love the Obama, beyond politics rhetoric. Not sure what to do about them.

Without Clinton, a lot of women and older voters may turn to McCain.

The different candidates bring different southern states into play. Tennessee, West Virginia, and Arkansas (they both share Missouri and Virginia) are Clinton's whereas Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama's are Obama's.

Clearly a Clinton-Obama ticket solves a lot of these problems. Black turnout will be just as high to elect the first black vice president, particularly because Obama will still be on the stump as the vice-president. Women, Latinos, Asians, and gays will turn out for Clinton's election as well as the "one-issue" independents: peaceniks and those worried about the economy.

I imagine that the anti-war bloc will continue to solidify as McCain makes the case for war. (Already Clinton is consistently beating McCain in head to head match-ups in the polls on the growing anti-war bloc alone. The economy is also only going to get worse. With gas prices rising, due to the summer increase, the cost of 'recession-proof' foods such as pizza and fries rising, and increase inflation on the dollar, the economy is very structurally-weak. (It's basically the Carter economy of the 70s.) This will create a powerful pro-Democratic electorate.

If we do a state by state analysis, Clinton puts the following state in play that Democrats have had a hard time holding onto in the past two presidential elections: New Mexico (5), Arkansas (6), Iowa (7), Florida (27), Missouri (11), Ohio (20) and Nevada (5). I think I write another post on this.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Can the Democratic party afford a Clinton victory?

Pragmatism is the philosophical calling card of most Clinton supporters. Citing her “35 years of experience in politics” her fans claims that her style and tactics will allow her to pass sweeping progressive legislation over the defiance of Republican Senators who, we can say with confidence, will dig their heels in against a Clinton White house. These same pragmatists downplay Clinton’s inability to work with her own party in the early years of the Clinton administration to pass universal healthcare. She has, they say, “learned her lesson” and the evidence they cite are her statements in the Democratic primary debates pledging undying support for Barack Obama where he to be the Presidential nominee for the Democratic Party

Yet can anyone who saw Clinton’s pyrrhic victories in Texas and Ohio believe that anything has changed since the healthcare fights of the early 90s? The exit polls indicate that Clinton's margins of victory were assured by a series of negative campaign ads, the now infamous red phone ad, and legitimate mistakes by the Obama campaign regarding the mini-scandal re: NAFTA and the Canadian government. It took nearly three months of negative campaigning combined with false congeniality during debates for Clinton to maneuver a kernel of fear into an electorate suffused with hope for “change.” Yet if she does not capture the party's nomination (why she must not below) she not only deligitimizes her requisite support for Barack as typical Clinton doublespeak, she has handed the Republicans a playbook on Obama when only a few weeks earlier right wing strategists were ringing their hands wondering how they would go negative against "hope" and "change."

And to what end? With a sudden increase in super delegates and a likely victory in the Texas delegate count, Barack Obama maintains a nearly insurmountable lead in both the combined and pledged delegate tallys. Upcoming Obama victories in Wyoming and Mississippi assure, that lead will continue to grow until Pennsylvania where Clinton may be able to win by another ten points. But because fewer and fewer Democratic voters are up for grabs it seems impossible for Clinton to enter the August Convention with a lead in pledged delegates. Clinton supporters please stop citing Bill Clinton's clinching of the nomination in June of '92, we all know this is a vastly different contest. In 2008, the Clinton pragmatists are going to have to engage in the kind of political self reflection that seems impossible for their candidate, and ask themselves. How can Clinton broker a superdelegate victory at the convention without exploding the Democratic party’s existing coalition and sacrificing the party’s chances of taking the white house?

New Voters: The failures of the Bush Administration and the ease with which those failures can be linked to the economic tidings of most Americans has energized a set of voters to take notice of the electoral process who otherwise would not. New voters are a complex coalition all their own, and while most vote for Obama, not all do. However, what does unify them is a sense that politics is naturally "unfair" and "corrupted." Whether these charges are true they provide intellectual justification for voter apathy and give these voters an "easy out" when politics proves just how corrupt it is. The problem for the Democrats is a superdelegate decided nomination is just the out these voters need and the electoal map is such that it does not matter how energized people in Ohio, New York and PA are about the Democratic party, the Republicans are electoral college incumbents in too many states to take for granted.

Southern Swing States: If the democrats are going to pull places like Mississippi, Virginia and Missouri they are going to need an active and energized African American base. And in a world where Hillary Clinton wins the nomination via pledged delegates, you probably could count on them. But in a world where the nomination is decided by superdelegates in the wake of a primary season where African Americans participated in record numbers you risk alienating huge chunks of that constituency. Though Clinton supporters can’t seem to fathom it, the last two Presidential elections have begun a serious narrative in the African American community about political disfranchisement in Florida and Ohio and the futlity of participation in the electoral process. If the Democratic party engages in a leftwing version of the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore (which is how the media will portray such a decision, Chris Matthews began that narrative last night) African Americans will, quite simply, not show up.

Women: Clinton's only hope. If Clinton is awarded the win by superdelegates (in a decidedly unfeminist way as it would not be democratic) her only prayer is to ratchet up the pressure on women to support her. However she has a bit of a problem. Her majorities among women in the Democratc primary are slim compared to Obama's majorities among African Americans. Conservative women take it as a point of pride to not like her as her version of empowerment has little to do with their lives. Ironically, Clinton will most likely capture the youth white women vote in November and if she can turn that vote out, she has a chance. It's a much smaller coalition and, as always, relies upon Republicans not showing up for John McCain for her to be victorious. Either way one thing is clear. The last few days before the 2nd super Tuesday reveal that when asked whether she wants the Democrats to win more than she wants to be President, Clinton responded in a way unsurprising to her detractors.