MARCH 25, 2008
As promised, here are some of the choicier comments from that "How Screwed Are the Democrats?" open thread I started yesterday. A lot of you had great thoughts. I'm posting these both because I enjoyed them, and because they represented the range of opinion among the commenters...
don't think the Dems/Obama are screwed by the primary battle. Indeed, Obama has improved soooo much better at campaigning/debating that it's hard to criticize primary battle for hurting him when it's clearly made him a stronger candidate (and Obama's better with this Wright stuff coming out now than either two months ago or two months after the convention).
What *might* screw Obama is the hubris of his campaign. First, most Americans supported the war and don't want to be told how stupid they were -- that might play with the Dems, but "you were fooled" will work a lot better in the general than "you had worse judgment than I and my lefty supporters did."
The question is not: "Are the Democrats screwed?" The Bush Administration's toxic legacy will be enough to give Hillary or Obama a decent shot at the White House. In the wake of Pastorgate, the more appropriate question is: "does the idea of a Democratic Reagan need to be discarded?" Even if Obama is the nominee, I am now afraid that GE 2008 will be tonally and qualitatively similar to GE 2004.
I'm kind of a wayward son, being a disaffected Democrat and McCain supporter, so take this as you will. My Democratic friends are taking this election seriously and personally. If Obama defeats Hillary, he won't just be defeating her - he'll be defeating women. The same for if Obama loses. His loss will be the defeat of blacks by the Democratic Party. It will come down to how much the loser does to mitigate their own defeat. Obama will do a better job of losing than Clinton, but he is more likely to win the primary (barely), so the Democrats are going to get into trouble heading into November. Going from a sure thing to a tossup - basically rewinding to 2004 or 2000 - is pretty much screwing it up, considering the economic, war, and general Bush incompetence. Unfortunately, the Democrats timed their racist/sexist slugfest to coincide with the GOP nominating a candidate who represents both a credible break from Bush and a credible choice for moderates, independents, and 10% of Democrats. To put it another way, do you think McCain will do better or worse among Democrats than Bush did in 2004?
This election won't be close. McCain is on record as knowing nothing about the economy and being content with 100 years in Iraq. That's a losing recipe for 2008.
More importantly, the political market has changed, and Obama's the only candidate in this race with the right product for the new age: lot's of old-timers working the top and countless activists pouring their souls into his campaign from the bottom up. The cynics call his rhetoric empty bullshit, but his fundraisers call it a $2 million per day goldmine. So do the superdelegates who can't wait to ride his coattails in a record-breaking year for voter turnout.
How did Bill Clinton beat a sitting president who had decisively won a popular war? Answer: The economy, an Republican out of touch with the present, and a candidate much more charismatic and a far better campaigner. Obama's chances are still excellent, particularly once McCain gets on stage in a contest and his feebleness starts to show.
In my opinion, the dangers to the Democrats are two: The first is that if this continues much longer McCain gets to solidify his support and his image without much opposition while both Hillary and the right-wing commentariat are working over Obama. As long as this is clearly over after North Carolina, at the latest, I think that it is manageable. The second danger is that, even after the supers declare and the result is clear, Hillary keeps battling, trying to undo Obama's delegate majority. Then things get really, really ugly with tremendous bitterness within the Democratic party the result. ... Even with that, I think the chances for the Democrats would still be good because of what the economy is likely to be doing by September and the endless war in Iraq. McCain might have to run against Bush to pull this out and it would be very hard for him to do without losing one or another segment of the Republican base. I think McCain is more or less in the position of Hubert Humphrey in 1968.
The thing that's truly baffling about the Clinton strategy (and something that your article appopriately highlighted) is that it could not possibly be more damaging to Democrats IF it succeeds. Their logic apparently goes like this: make Obama so unelectable by actively painting him as aloof, inexperienced and unserious, and by passively allowing others to paint him as an angry, militant black man. If that actually happens, the African-American base of the Democratic party will abandon us for a generation (at least, and they need not embrace the GOP, two voters staying at home hurts as much as one cross-over). ...
If the Clintons' strategy works, the consequences will be dire. If Barack Obama who is Columbia and Harvard-Law educated, clearly brilliant, and half-white, is too "black" to be president, will there ever be an African-American man or woman who is not? That is what the African-American community will be thinking, at the same time Senator Clinton will be asking for their vote. She will not win that battle.