Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dissecting Hillary's Win in West Virginia

Ninety-five percent of Democratic primary voters in West Virginia today were white. About 70 percent of them did not have a college degree. Among white voters without a college degree - largest demographic in the state - Hillary carried, 72 percent to 25 percent. She won white voters with a college degree, 55 percent to 41 percent. Back of the envelope calculation gives Hillary a floor of 64.15 percent... winning by 29 points at least.

As discussed last Tuesday afternoon, the dominant voices in the press are ready to declare the race over. Last Tuesday night, we saw some of the most influential voices in television news (Russert, Stephanopolous) declare the primary over. Terry McAuliffe is complaining that 90 percent of the media are in the tank for Obama. (Welcome to the party, pal.)

You'll see the press, and Obama's surrogates (perhaps I repeat myself) insist that tonight's result means nothing, and indeed, in the delegate count, the effect is marginal. But superdelegates ought to be sweating. White working-class voters, and various overlapping demographics - the elderly, Catholics, Jews - just aren't warming up to Obama, and they've been the backbone for the party for generations. Liberal bloggers (and Saturday Night Live, and arguably the Washington Post) are responding by suggesting Hillary's supporters are racist; these people may not be so eager to vote for Obama in November as the pundits insist. Once you insult a voter by calling them racist, they may not be eager to meekly repent by doing as their moral betters in the pundit class demand.

Hillary Clinton is still the underdog, and she faces long odds to overcome Obama in the delegate and superdelegate fights. But the fact that anointed-nominee Obama couldn't make any traction in any key demographic in West Virginia ought to keep the superdelegates awake at night. And she will be invigorated by this win; landslide victories tend to do that. The exhausted mainstream media bigfoots tried to end this story one chapter too early.


Life is Old There

As expected, Hillary Clinton beat the you-know-what out of Barack Obama in West Virginia by something on the order of 66% to 27%. This is becoming a White v. Black primary battle. According to the exit polls, 95% of the voters in West Virginia were White and, according to the AP piece written by Dave Espo and Matt Apuzzo: "Nearly a quarter were 60 or older, and a similar number had no education beyond high school. More than half were in families with incomes of $50,000 or less, and the former first lady was wining a whopping 69 percent of their votes."

If you want this primary campaign to be over, then you write-off the Mountain State and continue your fantasy that Clinton will have some epiphany tonight and wake up tomorrow morning proclaiming Barack Obama is the one and true nominee of the Democratic party. If you are not on illegal drugs, you look at her better than 2-1 win last night and say, "Why would she want to get out after a huge win in a state which is no less legitimate than North Carolina (which Obama won handily last week).

The only major difference between the two is that WV is almost completely White and North Carolina is about 22% Black. The issue for Democrats is that according to the 2000 census, Blacks make up less than 13% of the total population of the United States, and so winning even overwhelming majorities of Black voters in November will not be enough to win the Presidency if he is getting the support of a minority of White voters. I am not in favor of people voting on the basis of race but, obviously, people do.

Hillary Clinton is a Woman. Barack Obama is Black. John McCain is 71. Those are facts. For most people those particular facts don't matter. For some, maybe for a lot, they do.

I did a phone interview with a newspaper reporter yesterday afternoon and after sparring for about 20 minutes, the reporter finally asked me "and you can answer this off the record, if you want" whether I thought America was ready to elect a Black President. I said (on the record) that America was ready for a Black President, but I didn't think it was ready for this particular Black man (Obama) to be President.

I reminded the reporter that Obama has been in the US Senate for three years and has been running for President for two of them. Remember, that Hillary Clinton said at the debate in Cleveland this past February that Obama "chairs the Subcommittee on Europe. It has jurisdiction over NATO. NATO is critical to our mission in Afghanistan. He's held not one substantive hearing to do oversight, to figure out what we can do to actually have a stronger presence with NATO in Afghanistan." To which Obama responded: "Well, first of all, I became chairman of this committee at the beginning of this campaign, at the beginning of 2007."

He was too busy running for President to (a) do the things a Senator is paid to do, or (b) learn the things that a President needs to know. Go figure.

I told this reporter that, as far as I was concerned, someone like [NY Congressman] Charlie Rangel might make a formidable candidate for President having served in the US Congress since 1991 and, (according to Wikipedia) is the "Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He is the first African-American to chair the committee. Rangel earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service in the Korean War."

Compare and contrast that to Barack Obama who didn't serve a day in military service, and has spent two-thirds of his entire three-year US Senate career running for President. Thus he has been, by his own admission, too busy to do any substantive work on the important Committees to which he is assigned: Foreign Relations; Veterans Affairs; Health; Education; Labor and Pensions; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

See what I mean? According to the New York Times, in his eight years as a State Senator in Illinois, Obama "effectively sidestepped" difficult issues by voting "present . nearly 130 times as a state senator."

Hillary won big in West Virginia last night and only a fool would bet the family homestead that she will be leaving this race any time soon.


Obama Ends Hezballah War With Two Sentences

Now this is the sort of foreign-policy acumen I've been waiting for. Sayeth the Lamb of Chicago:
This effort to undermine Lebanon's elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately.... It's time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.

Ah! Well that ought to do it then. Noah Pollak notes that "those who have influence with Hezballah" -- that is, Iran and Syria -- are precisely those encouraging Hezballah to make war on Lebanon. So precisely why "those who have influence with Hezballah" would work to stop them from doing exactly that which they've ordered them to do is not exactly clear. But Bush, you know, is an idiot.

Oh, and Here's a Shock: Having successfully wooed the hard left under his banner in the primaries, Obama decides it's okay to display the "false patriotism" of a flag pin again, just in time for the general election campaign.


Obama On Affirmative Action: A Class Act?

Richard Kahlenberg, who's been campaigning for class-based affirmative action for years, has an article on InsideHigherEd yesterday arguing, quite persuasively, that
nothing could carry more potent symbolic value with Reagan Democrats than for Obama to end the Democratic Party's 40 years of support for racial preferences and to argue, instead, for preferences - in college admissions and elsewhere - based on economic status....

... to catch the attention of working-class whites, he needs to do something striking, which further distances himself from the Rev. Wrights of the world, who view life through the lens of race, and also signals to working-class whites that he understands that they deserve a helping hand too. Switching the basis of affirmative action policies from race to class would do just that.

Kahlenberg's right. Of course it would. It's such an obvious good move for Obama that he may well do it. But will he? Who knows? His hints - primarily saying to George Stephanopoulos once that his own daughters "probably" don't deserve preferential treatment - so far have been guarded, tentative, opaque, and quite confusing, as no doubt they were intended to be.

It's not as though Obama has said nothing about affirmative action - in fact, he's been as close to it as he has been to Rev. Wright - and to reject race preferences now he'd have to reject just about everything he's said in the past. Of course, since he's now rejected Wright he could reject preferences as well. In fact, following his shock! shock! at learning, after all these years, what Wright really stands for, he could claim, with similar persuasiveness, that in all the years he supported affirmative action he never realized that in practice it amounted to actual racial preferences.

If anyone wants to follow a fairly detailed trail of what Obama has said about affirmative action, and what others have said about what he's said, you can begin by looking here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Since I agree with the excellent points made in all those posts (I should, since I made them!), I'm sorely tempted to reprise them all here. But - you may issue a sigh of relief now - I'm not going to. The reason I'm not - other than my confidence that I don't need to because you remember them all- is that the purpose of this post is to point you to Kahlenberg's article, and Kahlenberg doesn't argue that Obama will substitute economic preference for race preference, only that he should. (In that wish, although he might shudder at the thought, he agrees with Ward Connerly.)

Now, if you doubt my fear that Kahlenberg reads too much into Obama's opaque utterances (utterances that I've called a "model of waffling obfuscation" on more than one occasion), that at best all Obama wants to do is substitute preferences for some poor whites for some rich blacks while leaving the massive structure of race preference intact, then you'll need to repair to the above posts and study Obama's quoted comments carefully.

If you do that, let me ask you to take the following quiz that I asked readers to take last November, some four months before The Speech but as relevant now as then, if not more so, after I quoted from Obama's verbose but obfuscatory comments on affirmative action in an interview:
Does Obama believe it is wrong to burden some and benefit others because of their race? Always? Usually? Sometimes? Never?

Are "qualities such as leadership, motivation, teamwork, and ability to effectively communicate" found primarily among disadvantaged blacks? If race were not a factor, would placing more weight on those qualities increase or decrease the proportion of blacks who are admitted to selective colleges?

How can affirmative action programs that treat race in a preferential manner be "properly structured" so that they give additional opportunities to blacks "without diminishing opportunities for white [or Asian] students"?

What is the nature of the "diversity" provided by blacks and Latinos in math and science, and why is it important?

How would "a scholarship program for minorities interested in getting advanced degrees in these fields ... broaden the pool of talent that we need to prosper in the new economy" more than a scholarship program that was not racially restrictive? If such a program were racially restrictive, why would it not "keep white [and Asian] students out of such programs" who could not attend without a scholarship?

Does Obama believe [as I've already asked, here and here] that all minority applicants who, like his daughters, "are pretty advantaged" should receive no preferential treatment?

Would Obama award preferences to those "who are still struggling, ... who are in the middle class [but] may be first-generation as opposed to fifth- or sixth-generation college attendees" only if they are "African-American kids," or would he "take into account" those facts equally for all applicants, regardless of their race?

In short, does Obama support or oppose preferences based on race? If he opposes them, why did he make ads opposing their abolition in Michigan?

I now repeat what I said back in November:
Done? Good. Now you'll have to grade your own quizzes, since I don't know the correct answers.

The fact that we still don't know the answers to these questions (and many more, but I'll refrain for now) is a sad commentary on the lack of probing analysis and questioning from the mainstream press.


The Donks need a man as Veep to Obama

So will Clinton be Obama's running mate in the general election, as many Democrats seem to want? Don't look for that to happen, Bositis said. "I've told people all along, even when Hillary was leading, that whichever one of the two won, the other would not be the vice presidential candidate. "You're talking about a significant break with the past. The party is going to nominate an African-American and white men have not only been the president when Democrats have won but always the nominee. They are not going to make such a big break as to not have a white man on the ticket.''

Bositis added: "The vice presidential candidate will be a white man to help them win the general election. The Democrats' problem in recent years has been lack of support from white men. "If Hillary had been the winner, she would pick a white man as her running mate. The change taking place is radical enough. It would be too radical not to have a white man on the ticket. You're talking about changing history, not a revolution, but the changes in this case will be incremental.''

And Bositis told me that we shouldn't feel too sorry for Hillary Clinton because she'll still be famous. "She's been the first lady, she's been elected a U.S. senator, and the Clintons are major fundraisers for the Democratic Party. Ted Kennedy thought he was going to be elected president, but he didn't disappear when it didn't happen. In fact, some people say he has gone on to be the most important senator in the nation.''

Well, that's some good food for thought. And, as Bositis said, expect Hillary Clinton to keep on keeping on until the primary season ends June 3. After all, she has brought some new voters to the table, and they will be very important for the Democrats come November.


The no change candidate

THE PRESIDENTIAL candidate who promises to change Washington raced into Washington's arms right after the media crowned him as the presumptive Democratic nominee. During a Thursday visit to the nation's Capitol, Barack Obama was fawned over by those he critiqued two days earlier: "Washington didn't give us much of a chance," he said during his North Carolina victory speech. Clearly, that's no longer the case.

But, being hailed as a winner is different from being hailed as the change agent Obama pledges to become. Obama changed the rhetoric and style of the 2008 contest and would make history if he becomes the first African-American president. A Democrat in the White House would change the dogma. But what else, besides the face of Washington, will he change?

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright called him out as a politician, a description that angered Obama as much as any other declaration by his former pastor because it exposed an unflattering truth. Obama held Wright close when it was politically advantageous and cut the controversial minister loose when it was politically advantageous.

The Obama campaign discouraged revotes in Michigan and Florida. It's running the clock when it comes to coming up with a solution about seating delegates from those states. Both states ignored party rules when they scheduled their primaries, leading the Democratic National Committee to strip their delegates. The Obama campaign did not rush to find a way to seat them and help Hillary Clinton add to her delegate count.

During the long primary season, Obama was occasionally asked to answer for actions that add up to very ordinary politics. One example is the flap over the North American Free Trade Agreement and an Obama representative's suggestion that what the candidate was saying on the campaign trail would not govern his actions as president.

He worked with lobbyists as an Illinois legislator and US senator, even as he distances himself from them as a presidential candidate. The Republican National Committee sent out a press release Thursday, noting that a former lobbyist, Antill E. Trotter, held a fund-raiser for Obama that night in Washington. Trotter specialized in telecommunications, transportation, and environmental issues from 2000-2004. The RNC release also contained reminders of an ABC News report that Obama introduced nine bills to make certain chemicals tax-exempt at the request of some corporate lobbyists; and a Boston Globe report about Obama's work with an insurance lobbyist to make healthcare legislation more acceptable to insurance companies.

A first term senator, Obama's relative newness to Washington helps him draw a symbolic contrast with Clinton and Republican John McCain. But in recent weeks, as more Democrats in Congress fell in step behind Obama, the establishment provides a familiar backdrop for his fresh face. During Thursday's visit, he looked like anything but an outsider. Greeted like a celebrity, he shook hands with members of both parties and posed for photographs during a stop in the House of Representatives.

The positive side of this image showcases a candidate who can unify his party and work with Republicans if elected. But part of Obama's appeal to voters is his promise to dramatically change the political culture in Washington. Savoring last week's primary victory, he said, "What North Carolina decided is that the only game that needs changing is the one in Washington, D.C."

The senator from Illinois walks a delicate line. He's the newcomer who crashed the 2008 campaign and changed the script from Clinton's inevitability to his own. He argues that he's best suited to challenge Washington's political culture because he isn't steeped in it. Today, Clinton is scorned by Democratic insiders and McCain is more maverick than darling of the GOP.

Obama speaks exquisitely about change; the signs at his rallies and speeches underscore one pledge: change. After eight years of partisanship and unproductive chill between the executive and legislative branches, it's a change to see a presidential candidate warmly embraced by the establishment. But if Obama wins the Oval Office, the next step is calculating how much distance it takes to truly change the status quo.



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