Sunday, March 09, 2008

Life of the Party

Almost in spite of itself, this election cycle has become a debate about the nature and focus of the Democratic Party. It was supposed to have been a relatively easy path for John Edwards, with a campaign schedule that should have moved him from strength to strength among the different Democratic constituencies, culminating in a knockout sweep on Super Tuesday. Instead, we will spend half a year determining the life of the party.

In Hillary and Barry, we are looking at people who have captured the imaginations of the major Democratic constituencies in new and invigorating ways. While various bloggers and pundits have used the terms “beer track” and “wine track” to sum up their respective supporters, the alignments do not break out so cleanly.

Hillary has much of the traditional Democratic blue collar core, as shown in her win in Ohio, the classic “Reagan Democrat”. The working class, the elderly, ethnic whites, Catholics, mainline Protestants, the socially disadvantaged and economically vulnerable. She has brought in enormous numbers of women voters, higher than the usual gender gap the Democrats enjoy. Finally, she is the clear favorite of Hispanics and Asians, especially south Asians. These are growing demographic groups and ones the Democrats need to consolidate as a dedicated voting bloc. This is the group that Bill and Al won. It is also composed of the voters most likely to defect to the Republicans (elderly, working class whites, Hispanics).

Barry has what I think is a totally unique combination of voting groups for the Democrats, the African American vote and the “wine track”. It is as though Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson had been merged. Usually, AA voters are found with the other core constituencies, leaving the wine track voters – upper middle and upper class, highly educated, college students, significant wage earners, in creative and technical industries, predominantly white – in the minority, able to challenge but not large enough of a block to dominate, but this time they have left their regular voting pattern to promote Barry. Just as with high female turn-out for Hillary, I think high AA turn-out for Obama needs to be seen as salutary and constructive identity voting.

The wine track group is more problematic. These are voters who are most likely to identify as “independents” rather than Democrats, and who bolt the party for third party candidates, such as Nader and Anderson. There is a mistake being made, I think, that these are somehow new voters in the system. AA voters are some of the most loyal and reliable voters in the US. Wine track voters are usually highly politically motivated, voting in higher levels than beer track Democrats, but are less likely to affiliate with the party.

The candidates are evenly balanced in terms of support, no matter what the Blogger Boyz scream about pledged delegates, with a very slight edge for Hillary’s supporters in sheer numbers. Both candidates are definitely striking the right chords with the complete range of the widely diverse groups that make up the Democratic Party.

What will the Party do?

Let’s make no mistake. At this point, the candidates can jostle, strategize, wheedle, threaten, coax and cajole, but the decision as to who will be the nominee lies in the hands of the convention voters. Neither of them can win enough delegates before the convention to win the nomination outright. The minor lead Barry enjoys with the pledged delegates today goes away the second MI and FL are acknowledged, but even with them seated Hillary cannot clinch the nomination. It comes down to super delegates reviewing the possible outcomes of the general given the one candidate or the other, and deciding which provides the party with the best electoral chance. Here are some considerations.

Jeralyn on TalkLeft posted a great analysis by William Arnone on the ten most vital states in the general election, Ten Key States Update and a Perspective on Pennsylvania. Those states are:
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Virginia
Please read the entire article and Jeralyn’s notes for the full run-down, but the gist of the article is that when a nominee was the winner of a given primary, that nominee has a better chance of winning that state in the general. That puts Arkansas, Florida, Nevada and Ohio in Hillary’s column, Colorado (caucus), Iowa (caucus) and Virginia in Barry’s column. Missouri and New Mexico (caucus) were statistical ties, so bode equally well/poorly for both. North Carolina is yet to be voted, but I expect it will go to Barry. The states favoring Hillary carry more Electoral College votes than the states favoring Barry.

Hillary has won both Ohio and Florida, and will win Florida again if there is a revote. Democrats cannot lose both Ohio and Florida and win the general election. One of those states is a must win in November. She also won Oklahoma and Tennessee, and it looks like she will win Kentucky. Hillary does well in border states where Obama does not and where Bill won last time. These parts of the country are pro-Clinton, and, yes, just the way that Barry enjoys a clear advantage with college students, Hillary enjoys a clear advantage with people who voted for Bill. This is good for the party, not bad, and an advantage Democrats are wise to exploit.

Let’s look the threats and negatives squarely in the face. Both candidates have supporters who say they will not support the other person if their own candidate is not the nominee. I should know – I’m voting for Hillary in November even if I have to write her in, and most of my female relatives intend on doing the same. Exit polls show that a larger and growing percentage of Hillary supporters say they would not be satisfied if Obama won and that they will not vote for him. Given whom her core constituency is, these voters are highly likely not only to not vote for Barry, but to actually defect and vote for McCain. These are the Reagan Democrats, after all. Though Obama supporters like to mutter about closet racists, the answer, frankly, is to be found in class – as Paul Krugman pointed out on Friday, people who are at the economic margins are not impressed with what Obama is offering, and will go with someone more familiar. Conversely, disaffected Obama supporters are more likely to vote Nader (Thanks, Ralph…) or sit out the election. What about the AA vote? The Blogger Boyz like to say that HRC’s racism has permanently alienated the AA vote. I say hogwash. There will be some who would sit out, but most are simply giving their candidate the best possible shot at the nomination. They will vote Democratic in the general. It is the really new voters to the process - women, Hispanics and college students - who are most liekly to sit out or defect in the absence of their preferred candidate.

Hillary has made it clear that she will support the party no matter what and that she wants a unified ticket for November. Barry is blustering and claiming he won’t take a VP slot (Just like he said he wasn’t running for President when campaigning for the Senate?), is refusing to say he will support the nominee regardless, and is making direct claims that his constituents won’t support Hillary. Which position is more constructive in the long run for building the party? Too much "Me no wanna do!" from a candidate, and he begins to look like a sore loser.

I can’t blame Barry for puffing up and making absolutist statements; I said yesterday he’s between a rock and a hard place and this is probably the only strategy he can run, but he is running out of time and maneuvering room. He’s going to have to agree to a revote on MI and FL, allow the delegations to be seated as-is, or else stonewall them being seated at all. The first two options will put an end to his pledged delegate lead, but will position him for a round two of negotiations. The third choice will force an incredibly ugly floor fight. None of these choices will result in a winner before the convention, and the Party will still have to decide, though a revote might make the choice easier. It is that possibility that Obama is fighting against right now.

Without Michigan and Florida being seated with full delegations and no restrictions on their pledges, Barry cannot gain a legitimate nomination. With them being seated under those terms, Hillary becomes the best general election choice for the party, having carried the largest number of battlefield and must-win states. The one outside option is that Dean and Brazile are more interested in defeating Hillary than in winning the general, and so refuse to seat the states and bully super delegates into installing Obama. To do this, they have to bet that they can get a high enough turn out in November to counterbalance defections from Hillary to McCain and those who will write in HRC rather than vote Obama. That’s a hell of a gamble. Remember, it’s not national advantage, but which candidate will do best state-by-state.

So, Dr. Dean, what’s it going to be? You put this patient into the ICU. How are you going to remedy this situation? What are you going to do to save the life of the Party?



Anonymous said...

I laugh as you appeal to Dean, talk about comatose patients. We're going to lose the general thanks to his crazy power trip, and Latinos, who were coming into our fold thanks to Bush are going back to the Republicans and staying there for the forseeable future thanks to Dean, Barry, and our need to disenfranchise anyone who doesn't worship our hero.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the DNC has a lot more to lose if Clinton isn't the nominee. The Obama supporters will disagree of course but winning AA and Independent voters isn't enough to make a strong case. Both parties can do more for AA but right now the only party who even pretends to care are the Democrats. More than likely AA would vote for Clinton and they would definitely vote for her if Obama was her running mate. The Independent progressive voters just annoy me and some of them will go to Nader if Obama isn't the nominee. Yes, it would be nice to get their votes but those voters will always find something wrong with the two party system and once they learn more about Obama they'll be disappointed in their choice. I agree that these are not new voters. I knew these kids back in college when they thought Nader was cool and now those kids are slightly more grown up and have now moved to Obama the "anti-war" candidate. But Clinton has the Democratic base including those voters who DO feel more comfortable voting Republican (Latinos, Asians, working class whites, Republican Democrats). Along with those constituents I am a liberal who also plans to write in Hillary and I have friends (including many women who love Hillary) who are quite liberal and plan to vote for McCain just because they hate Dean and the DNC for what they are doing to our party.
I don't think Dean will show any leadership. We know he's in it for Obama and he doesn't seem like the type who is willing to take any heat from either side. I just want this situation to be solved as quickly as possible. If Dean would actually do his job we'd have one by now. It's very frustrating and I wouldn't be surprised if talk about the MI and FL delegates lasts for the next seven weeks. I think if Hillary wins PA - and she wins it big - they will be forced to go ahead with do-overs in both states. But that's a long time and I'm tired of waiting around when MI and FL could easily solve this situation so we could settle on a nominee by May. If Obama and his supporters truly believe that he has more support and is the better candidate to win against McCain then why are they so afraid to have these two important states conduct new primaries? They are using the "rules" as an excuse but they really are scared and they know that if these two states are included Hillary will be ahead both in the delegate count and the popular vote.

gendergappers said...

Still and all, the bugger in the stew is the MEAN stream media which continues to ignore the sexism, claims racism where it never happens, lies and misrepresents things to the voters.

Dean cannot do anything as he is overruled by the DNC which gave him a short leash when they appt. him.

We can no longer rely on so-called Liberal talk shows as most all of the hosts have gone over to BO - noticably among them, Randy Rhodes, who is spreading lies against Hillary thicker than flies on turds. And like popular Olbermann and the rest of the MSNBC misogynists, they are part of the BO campaign with constant free advertising and misinformation.

gendergappers said...

Great article, Anglachel. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. I'm a Hillary supporter, but I beg you to support whoever wins the Dem nomination. Your country needs you. We can't stand another four years of Republican misrule. Think of all the suffering in Iraq, the disgrace of torture, people without medical care here, the trashing of the Justice Department, and on and on.

Vote Democratic in November.

Go Hillary!

Anonymous said...

I was highly impressed by Howard Dean's Fifty State approach to rebuilding the Democractic Party from the grassroots up.

I don't get this obstinacy about MI and FL. I seem to recall that when the the DNC announced the penalty for moving dates earlier that there was lots of talk about, well, something will be done about that. The Dem Party cannot leave FL out, etc. I also don't get why a state which has its date changed by the opposition party get the same treatment as one which had its date changed by the Dem state and party officials.

I refuse to believe that Dean was part of a longtern Axelrod scheme to try to the maximum number of states decided by caucuses.

But, really, what is going on here?

Going forward, the IA and NH lock on first and second primaries may need to be changed. But they have been valuable for permitting low recognition and low financed candidates using hard work and face-to-face meetings to establish credibility.

Dems, we have a problem!

Anonymous said...

1. If there is a major terrorist attack, here or abroad, McCain will get a huge boost. I know this is illogical, but it will happen. It is possible that neither Hillary nor Obama could win under those circumstances, but I think Hillary has the edge. Voters will perceive Obama to be far too inexperienced. (Even if some voters doubt Hillary's credentials, they won't doubt Bill's.)

2. Longer term: if Obama is the candidate and loses, it may be a long time before another AA gets to run because the political autopsy will insist that the combination of circumstances (no imcumbant running and a very damaged Republican party) and Obama's personal qualities can't be beat. It won't be fair, but many will attribute the loss to racism, esp. since the strongest meme of this year's election is that Democrats should win. If, OTOH, Hillary loses, for whatever reason, people will be split between the "a woman can't win" and "Hillary, this particular woman, can't win."

3. I will vote for Obama or Hillary - or just about any Democrat. During the past 50 years, the progressive instinct to just pick up our marbles and throw our votes away gave us Nixon (Vietnam, Cambodia, a toxic political atmosphere that still exists, covert racism & sexism), Bush 41, and Bush 43. Nader is typical of this breed that insists both parties are the same. They are not.

4. What I regret about the pro-Obama sites is that their viciousness has rubbed off on my perception of Obama so, if I must vote for him, it will be with resignation not joy.

Anonymous said...

I'm SO glad to find this site! I was just over at Kevin Drum where he's wondering why Hillary just won't gracefully concede. Well, why should she? I WANT a candidate who will fight to the end, with everything she's got.

Frankly, I think if she'd run as full-throated fighter rather than on the basis of experience, she'd have this locked up by now. I've been a fan of hers since way back when she made that "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies" comment on 60 Minutes. I thought then, Yes; finally -- a woman who'll throw it right back at them. This is a VERY VERY SMART woman who could have made a fortune on her own behalf, done the Condi Rice thing and been provost in the Ivy League and had a supertanker named afte her. Or instead could have ducked all the shit and been a librarian-and-tea-roses kind of First Lady. Instead she stood in the middle of the shitstorm for 18 years and took and took it and never flinched, always fought back. Surely, if she were just some power-crazed gorgon she could have figured out a smoother, easier path to fame, fortune, and power (Condi Rice, Ann Coulter, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Margaret Thatcher, Carly Fiorina.) Surely she wouldn't have kept fighting back and taking it if she didn't truly care about Democratic issues.

I remember in the very earliest days of the Clinton administration when Spy magazine had on their cover a picture of her in dominatrix gear. At the time, it was unbelievably shocking to see a First Lady treated like that. But she was fair game from the get-go because she just would not ACT LIKE A LADY. (Which is just what those who are urging her to concede want her to do -- the ladylike thing, bowing out, yielding to the gentleman.) These Spy boys were the predecessors of the Kos boys -- they truly have some weird vagina dentata somewhere in their psyches.

She was the first one to point to and name the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, and she was torn apart for that from all corners -- no one supported her, no one. But she was right, wasn't she?

I get so angry at people who say she's done nothing but be First Lady and then Senator (as if that were nothing.) But the underlying assumption is that she had no professional existence outside of Bill. Well, isn't that the same old misogyny. Forget all her legal work, forget her Watergate work, forget her work for children and to improve the education system in Arkansas. (maybe it's generational -- maybe the Obama people just don't know anything that happened prior to this decade.) Forget her work for health care. Yes, it failed. And I'm sure she learned a hell of a lot from that failure. Nor was the failure by any means hers alone. Frankly, I like the idea of someone who's been burned and learned. I like that much better than the idea of someone who's simply been annointed.

Oh, but the war vote, Obama supporters say. Though most of them voted for Kerry, or claimed they did (repudiating Nader, some of them.) They understand his reasons for voting the way he did, why can't they understand hers? And they certainly forgive Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum for their support of the war. And: given his rhetorical skills, given his press spotlight, Obama could be shouting from the rafters to bring the troops home NOW. But he isn't quite doing that, is he?

People out there are angry and hurting and it's only going to get worse, foreclosures, unemployment, health care, Iraq, schools are crap, college unaffordable. I had to laugh at the guy urging the Dem party to expand with "the creative class." I'm one of those, self-employed, losing work, a 50 year old woman who can't buy health care for love or money -- and I tell you there won't BE any "creative class" if we can't manage the coming economic meltdown. You can't write or paint if you can't pay rent. And I know if I'm biting my fingernails it's miles and miles worse for millions. I want someone who's going to fight to protect my interests in the face of Wall Street and Prudential. Someone who knows the system, knows how to broker deals, knows where the bodies are buried, knows how to twist arms until the bones creak but also knows how to smile and cajole, knows how face the shitstorm and speak into it.

The purists will say oh, that's the same old politics as usual, we want something new, different. At which, I'm sure, the Senate Republicans just chuckle and light up their cigars.

Magic just won't cut it in the face of a Sentate filibuster.

But after being one of the early readers of these BloggerBoys, an early contributor to the Dean campaign -- after being involved in Dem and progressive politics for 20 years -- I can't believe the misogyny and arrogance and spoiled-brat attitude of the Obama supporters. Today in the SF Chron a young female columnist wrote that she showed up at her acupuncturist nearly in tears and said that she won't for Hillary, she WON"T. And I had to wonder if she stomped her foot and held her breath until she turned blue afterward.

I expect major major tantrums in Denver.

Anonymous said...

Great commentary, I've really enjoyed this blog. The problem for the DNC is not just the logistical one of seating Florida or Michigan. It is an idealogical one that goes much deeper. Will a political party represent the interests of the people who belong to that party. Those interests are developed in the platform that states the party's concerns and the party's soloutions and ways, legislatively and with particular candidates running locally and nationally. The problem is that on occasion a party must take into account the will of the people. While both states were warned not to caucus or primary outside the calendar, some rogue politicians who had been threatening to jostle things up in protest of tradition took it upon themselves to call the bluff. In Florida this was especially tragic because the Florida Republicans dominating the legislature decided. The florida dem. party had a decision to make. Should we follow the rules and tell our voters that they have no say at all ? They chose to risk allowing the will of the people to at least be heard as in Florida especially given the recent voting history it would have been dangerous to say
Sorry, democratic voters you can't vote at all cause of them rules. All were listed on the ballot and no-one campaigned. The national party is treading a dangerous line. Obama is kicking himself because he and Edwards took their names off the ballot in Michigan. Kucinich was on both ballots. Obama and his followers will continue to bully and cajole. They will demand that the rules be obeyed and the national party will lose it's base. The only people who are enjoying this are the GOP and those guys, Blomberg et, al. who are trying to form a third party that is centrist and bi-partisan. The DNC needs to grow some courage. The democrats used to have some courage, I used to watch the watergate hearings on tv. I grew up admiring FDR.
Howard Dean is not being a very good party leader. Leaders should respond to the will of the people, which if your a party member means you have to allow a re-vote in Michigan and either allow Florida as stands or allow a re-vote. Both need to be primaries not caucuses. If Dean and the DNC don't solve this fairly for all of us, the base will lose all faith and the party will collapse. I know it's hard for Obama's followers to hear, but the base is the foundation of the party and it takes generations to build but a single election cycle to lose. Reagan split it once after Carter. Bill Clinton began to rebuild much of it. This will be gone if the base sees that Florida and Michigan are excluded. The working class will leave in disgust at the incompetence of the venerated party elders, and the inherent injustice of it all. Levy fines, or move them back in the calendar at the next cycle but the DNC can't afford to just stick to the rules,
because it will collapse the party, leaving just a shell and we'll get another slew of democratic
politicians who get into office and suddenly become republicans. Anyone remember Phil Graham of Tex.? What a way to guarantee another few decades of rep. dominance and the continued erosion of the bill of rights. Dr. Dean if you can't grow some political courage, move over and let someone else do it.