The labor movement once loomed large over American politics. If the nineteenth century was dominated by conflict with Indians and over slavery, the early twentieth center was dominated by what was called “the labor question.” But very few Americans outside Washington today know anything about the labor movement. I talked recently to a historian who was writing a book on liberalism who didn’t know that in 2005, a group of unions had split off from the AFL-CIO to form Change to Win.
In the last years of his life, William F. Buckley Jr., who died on February 27 at the age of 82, broke with many of his fellow conservatives by pronouncing the Iraq war a failure and calling for an end to the embargo on Cuba. He even expressed doubt as to whether George W. Bush is really a conservative—and he asked the same about neoconservatives. To Buckley's liberal admirers, these sentiments suggested that the godfather of the Right had, like Barry Goldwater, crept toward the center in his old age.
When Barack Obama announced a year ago that he was running for president, I scoffed. How could a black man whose middle name is Hussein and who looks like he is 25 years old win the White House? To be sure, he was a U.S. senator, but he had been elected largely on a fluke when his toughest Democratic and Republican opponents were felled by scandals.
Bill Buckley, who died yesterday, will, of course, be remembered as the man who was most singly responsible for the modern conservative movement. Before 1955, when Buckley founded National Review, there were disparate strands of an American right--from free market anti-New Dealers to traditionalists like Russell Kirk to anti-Semitic crackpots like Gerald L. K. Smith.
Like much of the nation, New Hampshire is in a frenzy over illegal immigration. In 2005, a police chief from New Ipswich, a sleepy small town near the Massachusetts border, arrested an illegal immigrant, who had pulled over on the side of the road, on the grounds that he was trespassing in New Hampshire. "We're applying a state law to illegal aliens, instead of federal law, because the federal government refuses to enforce its own laws.
Delaware, Jon Chait's favorite state, tells an interesting, and disturbing, story about the battle for the nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. While Obama won the state, he did so because of overwhelming support from black voters, who made up 27 percent of the primary electorate and went for Obama by a stupendous 89 to 11 percent. That's the kind of margin one would expect if Obama were running against George W. Bush, not Hillary Clinton. If you look at the reason, it seems to have been a backlash vote.
The Georgia results seem to show two things: 1) Almost all the John Edwards vote, which was primarily white, went to Barack Obama, 2) Obama slightly increased his already large margin among black voters over the last weeks. If you look at the Mason-Dixon poll from early January, Obama had 36 percent of the overall Georgia vote, Clinton 33 percent, and Edwards 14 percent, with 17 percent undecided. Blacks often say they are undecided, so it is probably a fair guess to say that more than half of these undecided voters were African Americans.
It would have been fine, of course, for a political scientist or a journalist to make the observation that Hillary Clinton stood little chance in the South Carolina Democratic primary running against a black candidate. And it would have raised no eyebrows if he or she drew comparisons between Barack Obama's win and Jesse Jackson's 1988 victory. But Bill Clinton is a master politician who calibrates the exact effect of his words upon an audience.
Who will get John Edwards's votes? The exit polls give a split verdict. Those in Iowa and South Carolina show a slight tilt to Hillary Clinton. If you look at those voters among whom Edwards enjoyed disproportionate strength, it was among voters less likely to switch to Obama. In Iowa, it was among older (60-64 years old) and conservative voters.