Tuesday, January 01, 2008

DMR Poll is Real and a Blow to Progressives

I've been reading the various posts and comments about the Des Moines Register poll that shows Obama singificantly in the lead for the caucuses. Some people have pooh-poohed the poll because of the very weird sample of "likely Democratic voters". The sample is strange because almost half of those who say they are likely to attend a Democratic caucus are not Democrats - 46%. This is in contrast to the historical norms which put non-Democrats (mostly "Independents" but a few Republicans) at less than 20%. The poll also reports that 60% of the caucus goers say that this is the first caucus they will have attended, which is triple the historical norm of, again, about 20%.

Let's separate out the difference between what the poll tells us about the people who have been polled and what the caucus results will be. I think it is safe to say that there will be statistically significant increases in the number of non-Democrats and first-time caucus goers on January 3rd, and that's about the beginning and the end of what can be known for certain about the eventual vote.

What the poll tells us is that Obama is successfully running as Joe Lieberman - I can't win real Democrats, so I will butcher the progressive dream and run to the right of the middle, pretending to "moderation" by calling progressives divisve extremists.

Democrats, the people actually committed to liberal democracy and progressive politics, are supporting Hillary Clinton and John Edwards more than Barack Obama. This should come as no surprise since they are both more progressive than Golden Boy Barry has ever dreamed of being. The DMR poll shows how people in the political middle will vote if offered a compromise candidate. Ed Kilgore writes about thre appeal of centrism in a recent post Broderist Ticket: Threat or Hoax? What the lack of Democratic support and the high volume of other support for Obama shows is that Broder doesn't need a "Unity" ticket in order to have a candidate who will stand for nothing. Kilgore notes:
The massive and persistent wrong-track numbers represent something beyond a coalition of those who hate Republicans and those who are mad at Democrats for not fighting them enough. There are those who out of conviction, ignorance or simple fatigue might vote for a reasonable-sounding third option, and the billion smackers that Bloomberg is alleged to be willing to spend will buy you a whole lot of credibility.
Or that Obama has also understood this trend and is making the most of it. Who needs Bloomberg when the Democrats will provide that person for you?

Independents and Republicans, people who either can't make up their minds about politics or else want more conservative politics, are flocking to the non-message of Barry like flies to horseshit. One thing that would have been very instructive to ask the respondents is whether they voted in the last presidential election and who they voted for. I suspect Obama's level of Nader and Bush voters would be very high compared to any other Democrat, though it would not be a high number. Most people supporting Obama have never bothered to vote before.

Why is Obama a blow to progressives? Because he is explicitly running against solid progressive policies and is running as a David Broder "bipartisan" nebbish. He and Axelrod have taken advantage of the lax qualification rules for Iowa and New Hampshire to attract the people who would vote for Joe Liberman as a way to introduce a Republican-lite candidate on the Democratic side (Republicans and Republican-aligned Independents), and by those who vote for feel-good rhetoric rather than policy (most Independents).

The result of this kind of voting is that the Democratic candidate is immediately moved to the right and the balance between the Democratic and Republican candidates is outside of progressive territory. It becomes a choice between a candidate who has loudly proclaimed he will compromise on everything and a candidate who says he won't compromise on anything.

It also elevates the candidate with the most unaired dirty laundry, the most visceral negatives and the least solid Democratic support to the front where the Republicans will have their pick of attacks on him - his drug abuse, his race, his inexperience, and his muddled religious background. The experience is a real talking point, the rest are crap, but does anyone think the Republicans will do anything but gutter attacks? They've already said they want Barry as the Democratic candidate, and believe me it's not because they care about the Democrats.

A large part of the netroots is so deeply in the grips of Clinton Derangement Symdrome that they don't seem to care they are promoting a candidate who has every weakness of Bill Clinton running in 1992 and almsot none of the advantages. Bill also ran as the moderate, the centrist, the bipartisan compromiser and healer of national wounds, except not so much and with far more executive experience and knowledge of Republican tactics. Netroots Obama supporters apear to be driven by only two concerns - defeating HRC and showing how "progressive" they are by voting for a black guy. I'd actually use a far more offensive epithet, the one I have heard some rich white guys use in relation to Golden Boy Barry, but that would get my blog blocked by a bunch of firewalls. These people don't give a fuck about black male incarceration rates or the brutal poverty black women struggle to escape. They want to appear "cool" by voting for the black guy. I doubt many of them would have voted for Jesse Jackson when he ran the first major presidential campaign by an African-American and achieved true and stunning upset victories over mainstream candidates.

The real point is that if the general population is offered a non-entity who stands for nothing but makes nice-nice sounds about Kumbayah togetherness, that person will be inherently more attractive than someone who takes a firm and potentially divisive stance on anything. The political point is that anyone who runs from that nebbish position is not going to have a mandate or political leg to stand on when he hits Washington, because he has already committed himself to not make waves, and the opposition has made no such promise. Those who argue that Barry is just lying about his centrism and that he'll be a leftist firebrand and staunch defender of the progressive cause when he actually gets to the White House are both delusional and pathetic.

Krugman has made the point that the nation is more liberal than not in its opinions these days, and this gives an opening for progressives (people who put liberal opinion into actionable law and policy) , but that we need candidates who will fight for a strong liberal platform and will not compromise on core principles for the sake of Kumbayah nice-nice. The DMR poll shows very clearly that Obama is the centrist compromise position - the Broder candidate. In order to promote progressive goals, which will be fought every step of the way by movement conservatives and by the centrist MSM, Democrats have to start from a position of strength, not from a position of compromise.


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