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Clobberin’ time!

May 13th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Politics

With roughly 70% of the vote in, Clinton is up by nearly 40 points (66%/27%). [edit] It’s 1:00 AM, with 95% reporting - 67% Clinton, 26% Obama.

While Obama’s camp has been prepping for a fairly major loss in West Virginia, it’s hard to spin the absolutely absurd beating he’s taking tonight*. Obama hasn’t won a single county in the state at the moment. John Edwards - a candidate who dropped out nearly five months ago - has currently got 7% of the WV vote - nearly a quarter of the votes that Obama has received.

At this point, there are really only two sane positions left:

1) White, working class voters matter to the Democratic Party in this election and - by extension - in elections going forward. If this is the case, then Clinton IS right. She’s stronger than Obama in swing states that are nearly all decided by white, working class “Reagan Democrats” - and dramatically so. Yes, it’s cringe-worthy to hear her overtly calling out her strength among “hard working white people,” but it’s hard to argue that she’s wrong about it. If those votes matter, Obama’s the wrong candidate.

2) The Democrats have little to no interest in winning back disaffected white, working class voters. They’re a demographic on the decline and their influence is likely to continue to diminish over the coming generation. You can certainly point to West Virginia as defense for this position. Its population has been dropping rapidly for decades and, as a result, so has its heft in national politics. Over the past 40 years, WV has lost nearly half of its electoral votes. By 2012, it’s likely to be worth even less. If this is the case, Obama is at least equally viable. Significantly, he’s got more appeal in states like Colorado, where the GOP has been hemorrhaging support for some time now. If the Democrats give up on the Appalachian region, Obama is probably the right choice for consolidating a new base elsewhere.

Neither position is ideal, obviously. Backing #1 basically means recognizing that a significant and deeply influential chunk of potential Democratic voters are at least highly suspect when it comes to racism. Admitting that your party remains beholden to potential bigots is more than a bit of a drag. It also means potentially alienating the ever-growing population of Hispanic voters who are still very much “up for grabs” between both parties.

But backing #2 basically means officially punting on the Rust Belt for good. 25 years of having their problems all but ignored by politicians in both parties has - in essence - made it possible for the Democrats to cut themselves loose from nearly every swing state east of the Mississippi. The Democrats are nearly free from the influence of the white poor, as the jobs never returned to them, their cities have rotted and their states have decayed. The price of that freedom is paid in the currency of human suffering, poverty and relentless population decline - not exactly the “politics of hope”.

I honestly don’t know which position is more compelling at this point. I suspect that - from a ruthlessly pragmatic standpoint - #2 is the right way to go. It could cost the Democrats the 2008 election, but regardless of the outcome, abandoning the white, working class poor will strengthen them in the future.

* Not that folks won’t try - Jamal Simmons is currently on CNN trying to argue that Clinton’s win doesn’t matter because Obama won a number of states by huge margins earlier in the campaign. The difference, obviously, is that Obama won by those margins in states where a bale of hay with a donkey pin stuck to its side would win in the general election.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 ralf // May 14, 2008 at 7:12 am

    I’m not sure I understand why you frame 1&2 as mutually exclusive. Why can’t Obama appeal to ‘white working class’ Democrats (over 65, high school educated, etc.) in the general? Just because Obama was their second choice in some primaries (as long as one ignores all those Western states), I’m not sure I understand how it follows that Democrats have ‘abandoned’ them. Did the Democrats ‘abandon’ African American voters every time they nominated a white guy?

    I realize that in those early hypothetical polls many say that they will vote Republican or stay home, but those polls said the same time about McCain when he won–evangelicals saying they would vote 3rd party or stay home, etc. And McCain supporters said the same thing about Bush (’no freaking way’) in 2000, but, again, voted for him anyway in the general.

    I’m not sure I understand why the Democrats are supposed to be so different from the Republicans on this, or why the historical inaccuracy of those sorts of questions is almost never mentioned. I heard Jeffery Tubin mention it on CNN once, but the rest of the crew acted like they didn’t hear him.

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