Wednesday: Ponderables

Obama’s campaign stops reflect his growing problems with Appalachia left over from 2008.

So, the results are in for the Arkansas and Kentucky primaries and there’s reason to be concerned for the Democratic party:

With 61 percent of precincts reporting in Arkansas, Obama took 60 percent to 40 percent for Wolfe. In Kentucky, with nearly all precincts reporting, 42.1 percent of Democratic primary voters opted for “uncommitted” rather than backing the president, who received 57.9 percent.

For a guy who’s running uncontested in Kentucky, that’s not a good sign.  By the way, in California and NJ, there is a “write in” option for the June 5 primaries.  Might I suggest that Democrats who are most seriously displeased with Obama write in John Wolfe’s name.  Oh, I know, they’ll call you a racist:

One easy explanation — and the one regularly espoused by some Democrats — for Obama’s struggles in Appalachia and portions of the South is simply that some white voters will not vote for an African American for president.

But although no one doubts that race may be a factor, exit polling suggests that the opposition to Obama goes beyond it.

And seasoned political observers who have studied the politics of these areas say race may be less of a problem for Obama than the broader cultural disconnect that many of these voters feel with the Democratic Party.

Or stupid:

“Race is definitely a factor for some Texans but not the majority,” said former congressman Charles W. Stenholm (D-Tex.). “The most significant factor is the perception/reality that the Obama administration has leaned toward the ultra-left viewpoint on almost all issues.”

But that’s just because campaign spinmeisters can say anything to journalists who have spent their four years in college hanging out at Starbucks and avoiding science courses that have labs.  (more on this later)  They can’t reason their way out of a paper bag.  So let me do it for them.

{{tying hair back, rolling up sleeves, putting on goggles and gloves *snap!*}}

1.) Let’s consider the possibilities.  These are southern states and southern states do have a history of racism.  People who grew up in the south may be unaware of the lingering attitudes about race that they have picked up from their environment and we cannot discount this possibility. But my mom lived in the whitest of white neighborhoods of Pittsburgh and didn’t experience racism until she went to high school in the 50s.  There was racism in the north as well.  It was just different.

2.) However, in the case of these particular states, Arkansas was in the vanguard in coming to terms with its racist heritage.  In 1957, Central High School in Little Rock was the scene of ugly racism as well as courage when 9 african american students matriculated.  Some states have leadership forced upon it but I suspect that there were many white people in Arkansas who were ready for integration as those who spat on those kids.  There’s also the possibility that the resentment of forced integration remains there but has gone underground.

3.) For those who were around in Little Rock in 1957, probably a lot of older people, how many of them were for integration and how many were against? We can’t assume that all of the older people in Little Rock were against because presumably there were pockets of support for integration in 1957 or it never would have happened, even if it was a struggle.  Who were these people and who did they vote for yesterday?  And let’s not forget that the Democrats lost a lot of voters in the south in the aftermath of Civil Rights legislation in 1964.  Many of the real racists abandoned the Democrats for the Republican party in retaliation.  Did they cross back over party lines to vote against Obama?  Enquiring minds want to know.

4.) It’s is personally painful to be called a racist.  Yes, believe it or not, my feelings are hurt when I am called a racist, but I overcome it because I am strongly confident that that’s not who I am or how my parents raised me.  I wasn’t alive in 1957.  Nope, not even a twinkle in my dad’s eye. By the time I got to school, Little Rock had already changed the world I lived in.  I’m not going to say there wasn’t racism but I wasn’t aware of it in my schools with the exception of the times when I lived in the south and when *I* was one of  the white kids bussed in to an inner city school.  Believe it or not, we all got along.  It was the adults who seemed to freak out.  So, you know, people my age and with my experience of living all over the place, racism isn’t part of who we are.  There was a time when people used to have different expectations about African Americans? I can’t wrap my head around it.  But I recognize a slur when I hear it and I don’t like to be called a racist.

5.) But let’s say there are Democrats who are a bit older than I am who watched the Civil Rights turmoil and were cognizant of their privilege and felt guilty about it but also grew up in an environment where those expectations about African Americans still existed.  That would probably be the older generation of baby boomers.  For them, there might be an inner conflict.  This is all just speculation.  I can’t know what older boomers are thinking and it might not be all older boomers, just some (so save your breath and comments for some other thread.  You know who you are.)  But that number of older boomers might be *just* enough to be useful for political spin doctors.  Those older boomers probably also went to school at a time when girls had to wear skirts and dresses and where the genders were segregated into wood shop and auto repair class for boys and home ec and sewing for girls.  I blissfully escaped that crap but older boomers did not.  So older boomers lived in a twilight period where there might have been enough indoctrination of stereotype about race and gender but they were forced to reprogram themselves.  The Civil Rights era reprogrammed them on race but left gender pretty much untouched.  Legally, feminism just didn’t have the same bite. For these voters, intellectually, racism is unacceptable but on a deeper level, it’s never completely gone away.  There might be some guilt about it, like a mental smack on the wrist whenever those older feelings of race start to bubble up.  And maybe it’s not just age related.  Maybe if you grew up in a town that was mostly white, the shock of the new is just as unsettling.

6.) Obama as president has done a lousy job.  Sorry, you can call me what you like but I’m evaluating him by the same criteria as I would have evaluated any of my elementary school classmates in Hawaii in 1970 and he definitely would have been in my cohort.  As one of my potential classmates, I am judging him by the standards of my generation and he just sucks as president.  That doesn’t make me a racist.  That’s just me, saying to Barry who may be sitting two desks over, “Barry, we’re walking to that store up the road to get some cracked plum seeds after school.  Are you coming?   My dad came back from Japan and got me a new Sony tape recorder, do you want to try it out tonight at my house? (My gadget addiction started young, I blame my father.) Did you vote for Patty Smith for class president?  I don’t know, I just think she’s really smart.”  So, when I go to the primary, I’m going to pick the best candidate based on past performance and future projections.  And Barry does not get my vote.

7.) But if I have an inner conflict, my trip to the voting booth may be quite different.  I  may not like the job that Obama is doing but I have to evaluate that assessment based on my background.  Am I making that assessment because I have residual feelings of racism or because Obama is really a lousy president?  Well, there have been other lousy presidents and I didn’t feel this level of discomfort.  Instead of saying to myself, “Jeez, how is it that a Democratic president could be worse than George W. Bush, is that even *possible*?” or “it’s because his skin color is interfering with my ability to judge his performance”, I might attribute my discomfort to my own character flaw.  If I can’t tell the difference, then the shame of not being able to tell the difference might persuade me to vote for Barry so that I overcome my inner perception of racism or to reinforce my political tribal affiliation.

8.) One of the things that disturbs be greatly about the “Well, they must be racists” memes is that it presumes that otherwise, Obama’s about as close to Jesus level perfection as a human can possibly be.  If a voter is critical of Obama’s caving to Wall Street on the economy, or his pronouncements about equality or the war that he fails to deliver on, or his slavish devotion to putting everyone’s retirement and social safety net on the table, all of that are just trivialities.  We voters are being unnecessarily harsh and peevish if we complain about how Obama’s mere presence in the White House has given the Republicans carte blanche to destroy the quality of life for the generations of Americans who have not yet reached the magical age of 65.  We have no right to be angry at this man whose delicate feet never touch the soil as he floats ethereally from issue to issue without a political compass.  He’s got a lot on his plate (that he asked for against many of our objections and concerns with his shocking inexperience). We must have some petty and embarrassing reason for rejecting him that has nothing to do with our ruined careers, foreclosed houses or children’s future indebtedness to the banks.

Now, I am just speculating about this here and all of this might be pulling it out of my ass but there is the possibility that the people most affected by perceptions of race yesterday were the ones who actually voted for Obama.  The stigma of being called a racist is powerful and in order to prevent that inner discomfort, they go along with the crowd and vote for Obama so that they don’t have to listen to those voices.  Then there are others who just evaluated Obama by their own standards of performance and observations and decided that Obama is not a very good president and needed to be opposed in order to send a message to the Democratic party.

You know, I don’t know what to say to those people who are struggling with the potential accusations of racism.  Those accusations, and repetitions of them by journalists, must be working because they keep popping up over and over again to explain why it is that a guy who is unchallenged is suddenly getting stiff comptetition from “uncommitted”.  At least be aware of the possibility that they are attempting to manipulate you with them. But sometimes, you have to do the painful thing and live with people calling you names.  Ask yourself if the country is going in the direction you want it to go and whether Obama is capable of taking you there.  If the answer is no, vote for the other guy in the primary or write a name in.  There is too much at risk to let the spindoctors roll over you and poke at your inner turmoil.  Ignore all of the other messages.  Obama will do ok if he doesn’t get the nomination this year, trust me on this.  He can make a mint on the speech circuit.  Maybe he can even take a genuine interest in social issues, though I wouldn’t count on it.  It’s not something he’s spent a lot of time on in the past and he shows no real affinity for it.  Let him manage The Foundation for Poor Facebook Millionaires and their Mashie Niblicks.  He’d be good at that.  Let him earn money the old fashioned way- through his Harvard connections.  Just get him out of the Oval Office, fergawdssakes.  I promise not to call you a racist.

Another thing I wonder about is the idea that DEMOCRATS are rejecting Obama because they think he is too “ultra-left”.  What are the chances?  The people who really think this are the ones who abandoned the Democratic party for the Tea Party in 2008.  Those people will believe anything, but how many of them are participating in closed Democratic primaries?  I find this cohort very interesting because I’m not sure that they actually went to the polls yesterday to vote in a Democratic primary for John Wolfe whose positions are, if anything, to the left of Obama.  Wolfe is a civil rights lawyer who thinks that Wall Street has gotten away with murder.  I guess it’s possible that a bunch of brain dead Democrats went to the polls thinking Wolfe was more right than Obama but shouldn’t we find out?  If I were a journalist, this is the question I’d be most interested in finding an answer for because it could be very important to the general election.  Who were the 40% of the voters who passed on Obama and voted for Wolfe?  And what about the people in Kentucky who would rather put their votes in limbo in uncommitted territory rather than give them to Obama?  Would the have picked someone more or less left than Obama had they been given a choice?  Appalachia benefitted from the New Deal and it voted heavily for Hillary in 2008.  It’s a lot to untangle but could make for some very interesting reading.  Maybe Wolfe is just speaking their language or maybe there’s something else going on that the other states haven’t had the opportunity to express.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped journalists and pundits from idly speculating on voter discontent and then, sweeping it away as distraction from what’s really important- the disastrous Facebook IPO.  Nothing to see here, people, move along.

Get on it, journalists, and stop taking dictation.

DNC to Arkansas Voters: “F%^& you”

Following West Virginia’s primary vote example, Arkansas voters are fixin’ to deliver a message to the Democratic party today.  Tennessee lawyer, John Wolfe, was running a mere 7 points behind Barack Obama in recent polls of the Democratic presidential primary there.

Oh, I know that a lot of people are going to call the voters of Arkansas racists or, even worse, conservatives.  But in 2008, Arkansas voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton and, well, we saw how that turned out at the convention.  So, maybe, they’re not racists or conservatives.  Maybe they’re just pissed that their primary votes last time meant absolutely nothing to the DNC and they are trying to communicate their extreme displeasure with the suck ass job that Barack “I would give myself a B+” Obama has done in the intervening four years.

The DNC has told Arkansas straight out that it doesn’t matter who it votes for in the Democratic primary, Barack Obama is getting all of the delegates.  Yep. They say he hasn’t complied with the delegate assignment rules.  I’m not sure the voters really give a flying f^&* what the delegate rules are. They just want to register their discontent and be counted.  As I recall, it was the DNC’s robotic adherence to The RULZ!, while feverishly working to undermine them, that lead to Obama’s nomination in the first place, voters for the other candidate be damned. But that’s the official decision.  Which leads me to wonder why states all over the country spend millions of taxpayer dollars to stage a primary where the results have already been determined by the party.  That’s money that could be used to hire some teachers or pave some roads or repair bridges or pay for some poor kid’s asthma medication.

It’s also just hints at what Katiebird has been saying about how the party could make a change in the lineup if it wanted to.  If primary results are meaningless and the party has decided who will get the delegates, then that means that if they get enough of these messages from primary voters who are disgusted with Obama, they could have a serious discussion with their candidate and maybe even bring in a relief pitcher.

Nothing is certain, not even Obama’s name on the ticket, until the balloons drop at the convention.  That’s not being a fantasist or crazy.  That’s seeing an opportunity to put pressure on the party that most other activists seem to have missed.  You don’t have to settle.

But one thing is for damn sure, if the party ignores its voters during primary season this year, they may not have a chance to make amends before the general election in November.  And there’s no amount of bad mouthing Romney you can do to make them ignore their anger at the party and Obama.  If I were the party, I’d get out front of the problem early and find out exactly what it is that voters want.  Because Arkansas is not an isolated example.  Kentucky is also having a primary today and while Wolfe isn’t on the ballot there, voting “uncommitted” is an option.  Then there’s Texas next week where Wolfe is on the ballot, and New Jersey in June where write in candidates are allowed.  Guess who I’m writing in? So, there are plenty of opportunities left for voters to slow the party down from rolling right over them.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

*************************************

I read this post yesterday at Digby’s about how the Democrats have made themselves a party of special interests and now the rest of the country is rejecting it.  While I understand the hypothesis, I disagree with it.  It just gives progressives an excuse to whine that no one understands them and all the good stuff they are trying to do.

The problem with this argument is that in 2008, the party had a humongous opportunity to break out of the perception that it is beholden to special interests but it passed on it.  By electing Clinton, they would have gotten back all of the working class people (by the way, that would include everyone not working on Wall Street).  The biggest pull they had was that millions of women from both sides of the aisle would have voted for her.  And this is why what happened to the party in 2008 was a self-inflicted wound that has festered: women are NOT a special interest.  Women are 53% of the population.  By electing Hillary, they would have acknowledged that fact.  By electing Obama, they aerosolized their base into a bunch of competing factions and then proceeded to gleefully neutralize the power of those factions.  The party has now become exactly what Digby fears it is.  It is perceived as being the refuge of the culturally disenfranchised groups who have no power and are completely at the mercy of the party fundraisers.  Those fundraisers have all the real power to direct policy, and they have- for their own benefit.  Without the money, Obama and the party is left to pander for the support of the groups it has gone out of its way to weaken in the past four years.  And the rest of the country, under stress economically is just tired of the austerity, unemployment and their dismal future prospects.  Republicans have seized on this situation by pouncing on those disenfranchised groups making it necessary for Obama to go after them, albeit weakly, and that makes him look even more beholden to them while paradoxically not being able to offer them much more than lip service.  It’s a fricking disaster.

The struggle is not between the liberal Democrats and the rest of the country.  The struggle is between the liberal Democrats and the moneyed interests that have taken control of the party.  The rest of the country *loves* liberal policies like Medicare and Social Security.  They’d love a modern New Deal initiative too, if only the party had a candidate who would put one together.  That’s never going to happen as long as one weak president is beholden to the guys who funded his campaign the first time.  With Obama, we get the worst of all worlds.  He’s a moderate Republican disguised as a liberal Democrat.  Karl Rove couldn’t have designed it better.

It could have all been avoided if the DNC had actually allowed a real roll call and floor fight at the convention in 2008 instead creating the false illusion that one candidate was soooooo far ahead of the other that there wasn’t a contest.  Too late to redo 2008 but 2012 is still available, and as we have seen above, primary votes are fungible to the Democrats…

As for whether African Americans would have abandoned the Democrats, I have my doubts.  *Maybe* the party might have lost the male portion but African American females would have won with either candidate. I think they would have come around. Then there were all of the Republican women I met when I was canvassing and phone banking who couldn’t cross lines in a closed primary but were determined to vote Democrat in the general.  That would have been more than historic.  That would have been a complete cultural shift and we missed it.

Oh well.

And Gallup says that Hillary Clinton is incredibly popular.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 471 other followers