It just occurred to me that the Obama presidency is like what would have happened if Boromir had succeeded in taking the One Ring to Gondor. They should have sent Faramir to Rivendell.
Anglachel has (yet another) informative post up, Primary Objective, breaking down the dynamics of primary challengers to incumbent presidents. Go read the whole thing. Here’s the conclusion:
There’s the landscape for a primary challenge. Anyone who would try this had best be ready to give up all hope of a political future, as he or she would be mounting a campaign against the dominant faction. There simply isn’t anything in the Democratic party analogous to the Movement Conservatives behind Reagan. Hillary is probably the only Democrat who has that kind of support and loyalty from her coalition, but is the last person in the party to deliberately undermine a sitting president that way. No other candidate has name recognition, an established base, and/or a defined cause.
Someone could act as a spoiler, much like Kennedy in 1980 or Bradley in 2000, but those two came in with media support and a dedicated base. Obama is unpopular in the party, but not mortally so (contra Carter), and he is still the beloved of the media (contra Gore) for intraparty battles, so is unlikely to be as damaged by a primary challenge as Carter or Gore. If there is another big economic shock and/or if unemployment stays as is or worsens, then the cumulative bad news may embolden challengers from his own faction and make the press distance itself from a loser.
Mostly, the danger to Obama will be in the general, where wider dissatisfaction, resentment voting and a less fawning press will put him in a condition closer to Humphrey’s or Gore’s in the general.
The trouble with the Democratic Party, an organization that is the worst in politics except for all the others, is that it has not discovered a way to recombine the populist and progressive modes of its liberalism in a way that matches the force of the New Deal coalition. Until it purged itself of the Dixiecrats, it could not do this. Since doing so, the progressive faction has not cared to do this.
It needs to build an analogue of the Movement Conservatives, and that cannot be done without the majority of the white working class once again agreeing that it’s material interests are best served by this party.
Now, I understand the reasons why she comes to the conclusions she does and I wouldn’t argue that her analysis would logically lead anyone to the same point. But history does not necessarily have to repeat itself. The facts lay out instances of failure when the Stevensonians have attempted to usurp the process. What I take away from this is that there has been a schism in the Democratic party for quite some time now. This is what Anglachel describes as the Stevensonians vs the Jacksonians. I think most readers of this blog would say they are a little of both. Yeah, admit it, you thought Tsongas was a contender, didn’t you? (Read the rest below the fold)
But I’m going to go out on a limb here and using absolutely no facts at all for this hypothesis will assert that over the last 40 years, the bulk of the country has been tending towards Jacksonianism, if that is a word. And the reason I say that is because the American industrial landscape is a hulking, smoking ruin. The working class no longer just works with its hands, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The new working class now also encompasses workers in highly skilled, technical jobs that require a college degree or its equivalent. Pretty soon, the MBAs will be joining us, though they’re in a state of denial at present that they’re jobs are exportable. The new working class is anyone who gets a paycheck for their income from another source. This working class contains people like programmers, accountants, system administrators, chemists, biologists, geneticists, nurses and teachers. They have now joined the busdrivers and autoworkers except that most of these new working class people have never been in unions. They may have thought that their college degrees made them more “professional” and less likely to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that the older industrialized economy fought through.
Maybe the turmoil inside the Democratic party has as much to do with this new reality as the colossal stupidity of the Stevensonian wing. Maybe the new working class has to come to some kind of understanding with itself and realize that the powers that be has taken the smart and well educated down a notch in the social hierarchy. To the rich and well connected, it doesn’t matter how many degrees you have. Your purpose in life is to become a handmaiden to the shareholders. You are a specialist, a technician, a servant. Nothing more than that.
Of course, there will be people who through circumstances or initiative will become self-employed or budding entrepreneurs. These people carry the weight of their own survival and everyone else’s on their shoulders. These are your new independents. Neither party really offers them what they need but when it comes right down to it, they’d rather not pay so much in taxes for all their hard work. And the bonus class is making more and more of these people as they cut these former wage slaves free of their former secure tethers to a steady salary.
So, maybe it is putting the cart before the horse to expect that this group will prevail against the Stevensonians, who seem to come from an entitled class of pseudo liberals. As Anglachel points out, what made the Republicans the dominant force in American politics today, besides the obscene gobs of cash, is a movement. And Democrats don’t have a movement. The Obama Movement was a manufactured one, slickly produced by a marketing team in some conference room, complete with powerpoint slides with carefully researched images created by professional graphics teams and finished off with plenty of branded swag in complimentary gift totes after an elegantly catered luncheon. (Smoke filled rooms are declasse) The reason it didn’t last beyond the election of 2008 is because it was a fad, like flash mobs. It didn’t really have meaning to the lives of the new working class, who just didn’t want another four years of Republicans in power.
Obama needs to get this through his thick head: he was never personally popular among the Democratic base. He was just “The Democrat”. No one really liked him. He’s not charming. He doesn’t have magical oratorial skills. He’s not a political wizard with a secret 11 dimensional chess plan. He’s not even good at politics. He was gently carried over all of the obstacles of the 2008 campaign by the media and his own party. And he knows it. If he’s insecure and thinks he can’t do the job he is clearly unprepared for, he’s got a good reason to feel that way. If he’d waited 8 years, even I might have voted for him. But he didn’t. And the fact that he is NOT “The Democrat” that everyone thought they were voting for because they didn’t really have a choice, has left the Democratic base deeply disappointed.
But unless Obama bows out, and I sincerely hope that someone convinces him that it would be the best thing for the party and the country, he will go on to lose the 2012 election and we’ll be stuck with another mean spirited, hard hearted conservative Republican. And this is something the delusional left, like Chris Hedges and Will Bunch have to get through their heads: no one they suggest as an alternative is going to win. The country isn’t going to suddenly become infatuated with Kucinich or Feingold or Dean. Nah-Gah-Happen. These Democrats do not resonate with the voters. And forget Elizabeth Warren. She’d be a great champion of protecting the middle class from financial predators but she’s never run for public office. Whenever I see this stuff in various comment threads I have to wonder if what color is the sky on the commenter’s planet.
What this country needs is a real movement. That voting bloc, that movement, is just sitting there, with no one currently representing or championing it. A savvy politician would appeal to the realities of this new working class, consisting of the old working class and the new educated working class. There is one obvious frontrunner there but as Anglachel points out, she won’t be disloyal to her own party. But would she be disloyal to her country if she thought that the country couldn’t survive another four years of bad government from either side of the aisle?
Which is more important? Party or country?
But whoever that champion of the new working class might be, he or she is not going to be able to win as long as the new working class does not realize that they are all in this together and that the education of the college professionals and technicals must form a coalition with the older union and industrialized workers. Until that happens, the Democratic base will remain fragmented and at the mercy of a bunch of snobs that populate blogs like OpenLeft and FireDogLake and journals like The Atlantic and newspapers like The Washington Post. They don’t want to associate with or acknowledge the reality of the new working class and so they will not represent or speak for you.
You have to form your own movement and speak for yourself. Then you can pick the candidate of your choice to represent you and your interests and tell the snobs to go eat granola.
Filed under: Democratic Primary 2012 | Tagged: Anglachel, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Jacksonians, new working class, primary 2012, Primary Objective, Stevensonians, technical, Tsongas, well educated | 48 Comments »