There have been comments here (and elsewhere) in recent days/weeks, that the Democratic Party as we know it is slipping away, unraveling and disappearing before our very eyes. Among the issues that are being cited, is as Sean Wilentz articulates in the HuffPo, that “the Barack Obama campaign and its sympathizers have begun to articulate much more clearly what they mean by their vague slogan of “change” – nothing less than usurping the historic Democratic Party, dating back to the age of Andrew Jackson, by rejecting its historic electoral core: white workers and rural dwellers in the Middle Atlantic and border states.”
Wilentz says, “Without a majority of those voters, the Democrats have, since the party’s inception in the 1820s, been incapable of winning the presidency.”
Yet, “the Obama advocates declare,” Wilentz notes, “that we have entered an entirely new political era,” and they claim that “it is not only possible but also desirable” for Democrats to win in November “by turning away from those whom “progressive” pundits and bloggers disdain variously as “Nascar man,” “uneducated,” “low information” whites, “rubes, fools, and hate-mongers” who live in the nation’s “shitholes.””
Having attempted, with the aid of a complicit news media, to brand Hillary Clinton as a racist — by flinging charges that, as the historian Michael Lind has shown, belong “in black helicopter/grassy knoll territory,” Obama’s supporters now fiercely claim that Clinton’s white working class following is also essentially racist. Favoring the buzzword language of the academic left, tinged by persistent, discredited New Left and black nationalist theories about working-class “white skin privilege,” a vote against Obama has become, according to his fervent followers, “a vote for whiteness.”
Talk about transformative post-racial politics.
Wilentz goes on to note that “In fact, all of the evidence demonstrates that white racism has not been a principal or even secondary motivation in any of this year’s Democratic primaries.” And indeed, he says, “Every poll shows that economics, health care, and national security are the leading issues for white working class voters – and for Latino working class voters as well. These constituencies have cast positive ballots for Hillary Clinton not because she is white, but because they regard her as better on these issues.”
Obama’s campaign and its passionate supporters refuse to acknowledge that these voters consider him weaker — and that Clinton’s positions, different from his, as well as her experience actually attract support. Instead they impute racism to working class Democrats who, the polls also show, happen to be liberal on every leading issue. The effort to taint anyone who does not support Obama as motivated by racism has now become a major factor in alienating core Democrats from Obama’s campaign. Out with the Democratic Party of Jefferson, Jackson, F.D.R., Truman, Kennedy and Johnson, and in with the bright, shiny party of Obama – or what the formally “undeclared” Donna Brazile, a member of the Democratic National Committee and of the party’s rules committee, has hailed as a “new Democratic coalition” swelled by affluent white leftists and liberals, college students, and African-Americans.
History shows that “the Democratic Party, as a modern political party, dates back to 1828, when Andrew Jackson crushed John Quincy Adams to win the presidency,” and without “the votes of workers and small farmers in Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as a strong Democratic turnout in New York City, Jackson would have lost the Electoral College in a landslide.”
Over the 180 years since then, only one Democrat has gained the presidency without winning either Ohio or Pennsylvania, with their large white working-class vote. (The exception, Grover Cleveland, managed the feat in 1892, and only barely lost Ohio – but he was dependent on the post-Reconstruction solid South.) Beginning in 1964, when the Democratic solid South dissolved, every successful Democratic presidential candidate has had to carry both Ohio and Pennsylvania, even when Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton picked up southern states.
Readers, should read the entire piece from Wilentz, however, I will note that he concludes:
In every presidential election they have won, the Democrats have solidified their historic link to white workers, not dismissed them. Obama and the champions of a new party coalition appear to think that everything has suddenly changed, simply because of the force of their own desires. In any event, Obama had shown no ability thus far to attract the one constituency that has always spelled the difference between victory and defeat for the Democratic Party. The party must now decide whether to go along with Obama and renounce its own heritage — and tempt the political fates.
Can we really afford to alienate these voters who have long been the core of our party? Many believe we can not.
Wilentz is correct in saying that Hillary Clinton attracts the very voters that the Obama camp and his supporters treat with disdain, because she is stronger on those issues. I’ve said here many times, that Clinton has the knack of actually listening to the concerns of those voters, a knack that Barack Obama seems to lack. We all want to win in November, and truly we can not afford to alienate one segment of our base. Obama supporters should take heed.