The fight for the nomination is coming to end in the next few weeks and for all intents and purposes, though “not completely over,” it does appear that “the odds now overwhelmingly favor Barack Obama.” This of course is not good news to Clinton supporters who hold on to the hope that she will pull off the nomination. I’m right in there hoping with all of you… She is in my opinion the best person for the job.
In Paul Krugman’s column today, many “Democrats are worried” that Obama can pull off a victory in the November General Election against John McCain. Although all indicators “strongly favor the Democrats,” this year, Krugman says there is still “just one thing that should give Democrats pause — but it’s a big one: the fight for the nomination has divided the party along class and race lines in a way that I believe is unprecedented, at least in modern times.”
Ironically, much of Mr. Obama’s initial appeal was the hope that he could transcend these divisions. At first, voting patterns seemed consistent with this hope. In February, for example, he received the support of half of Virginia’s white voters as well as that of a huge majority of African-Americans.
But this week, Mr. Obama, while continuing to win huge African-American majorities, lost North Carolina whites by 23 points, Indiana whites by 22 points. Mr. Obama’s white support continues to be concentrated among the highly educated; there was little in Tuesday’s results to suggest that his problems with working-class whites have significantly diminished.
Discussions of how and why Mr. Obama’s support narrowed over time have a Rashomon-like quality: different observers see very different truths. But at this point it doesn’t matter whose fault it was. What does matter is that Mr. Obama appears to have won the nomination with a deep but narrow base consisting of African-Americans and highly educated whites. And now he needs to bring Democrats who opposed him back into the fold.
History shows that even after other “hard-fought” battles for the nomination, the “Democrats have had little trouble unifying,” but Krugman notes, “this time the division seems to go deeper than ordinary political rivalry.”
The closest parallel I can think of is the bitter intraparty struggles of the 1920s, which pitted urban, often Catholic Democrats against Protestant farmers.
So what can be done to heal the party’s current divisions?
Krugman’s advice is on the money, though no doubt, Obama supporters may disagree. He cautions that (emphasis mine) “More tirades from Obama supporters against Mrs. Clinton are not the answer — they will only further alienate her grass-roots supporters, many of whom feel that she received a raw deal.” And he says (emphasis mine):
Nor is it helpful to insult the groups that supported Mrs. Clinton, either by suggesting that racism was their only motivation or by minimizing their importance.
After the Pennsylvania primary, David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, airily dismissed concerns about working-class whites, saying that they have “gone to the Republican nominee for many elections.” On Tuesday night, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, declared that “we don’t have to just rely on white blue-collar voters and Hispanics.” That sort of thing has to stop.
The fact is we need every faction, every demographic group to coalesce around the nominee. We can not simply rely on the groups that Obama has brought into the fold and call it a day. And we must give the “delegates from Florida and Michigan — representatives of citizens who voted in good faith, and whose support the party may well need this November — seats at the convention.” Yes, we must.
And Barack Obama, once the nomination is fete de complete, needs to actively court the voters who Hillary Clinton has attracted, the “white blue-collar voters and Hispanics,” and he should work to “center his campaign on economic issues that matter to working-class families, whatever their race.”
Hillary Clinton has done a far better job assuring these voters that she is listening to their needs and she will work to help them once in the White House.
As I pointed out here many months ago, Obama’s message of uniting people to work for a change falls short for many of those over-worked and under paid working class families who are struggling to put food on the table and pay their monthly expenses. It’s an idealistic vision, coming from the Obama camp that everyone has the time, energy and money to jump into the activist mode and get involved. Too many working class families it simply is not feasible. Hillary Clinton gets that. Barack Obama misses the point.
As Krugman notes at the end of his column today, “Mr. Obama has an extraordinary opportunity in this year’s election. He should do everything possible to avoid squandering it.”
For now, I am holding on the concept that a miracle will shift the universe and Hillary Clinton will become our nominee. But the pragmatist and realist in me, also gets that Paul Krugman offers a clear view of the lead up to November with Obama as the nominee and it’s solid food for thought. And of course the flip side of all of this is that if that miracle does happen, Hillary Clinton will need to work equally as hard to bring the Obama voters and supporters into the fold to ensure a win in November.