We Don't Need Yer Steenkin' Votes
by johnnygunn, Wed May 14, 2008 at 10:15:01 AM EDT
A disturbing trend has emerged within the Obama campaign and among his supporters. Apparently, many believe that Obama doesn't need working class votes in the general election. Not only will he not need them, but there is almost a palpable pride in refusing them. How, you can say what you will about the hypocrisy of the Republican Party - and there's ample hypocrisy to talk about - but Karl Rove & Co. always were ready to take any and all votes. That's how you win elections.
The most visible example recently was the dustup between Donna Brazile and Paul Begala on CNN this week. Brazile said,
But, Paul, you're looking at the old coalition. A new Democratic coalition is younger. It is more urban, as well as suburban, and we don't have to just rely on white blue-collar voters and Hispanics.
I groaned when I heard it.
Then Begala replied,
Let me finish my point. We cannot win with egg heads and African-Americans. OK, that is the Dukakis Coalition, which carried ten states and gave us four years of the first George Bush.
I groaned again.
But it seems that the Obama campaign and his supporters are steaming full speed ahead towards that iceberg. A movement always looks huge from within - from within the crowds at university campuses or on Independence Mall. But once released from the confines of its party base, movement politics tend to dissipate much like a tank of water spilled on the ground. Movement politics have failed on the presidential level with one notable exception - Ronald Reagan. Yet, even Reagan was astute enough to know that driving away core traditional Republican constituencies was no way to build a coalition.
Whether Obama supporters like it or not, there is ample evidence to suggest that Obama has difficulty drawing non-African American working class voters - not just white, but Hispanic, too. Is it racism? Perhaps in small part, but a larger part may be that his message does not resonate with working class voters - African American blue-collar voters excepted. Obama did nothing to dispel this perception by largely ignoring West Virginia. Apparently Obama will pay little heed to Kentucky as well. If Obama does have the nomination wrapped up, as his supporters argue, then that should be all the more reason to go into challenges areas and among challenging demographics and rub elbows.
A recent front-page post at Daily Kos, White Voters, Obama and Appalachia, suggests that Hillary Clinton's support comes largely from the "culturally stagnant", white, upcountry demographic. In the author's graphic, he says that those counties that gave Clinton 55% or more of the vote are predominantly Appalachian/Ozark or with ties to that region.
But a closer look suggests that Obama's support may be far narrower than Clinton's. Namely, that counties in primary states - repeat, PRIMARY states - that gave Obama 55% or more of the vote are in the Chicago region, the Potomac, or the Black Belt - a rich agricultural region stretching across the South in a wide curve that had been, until recently, majority African American.
Counties that Gave Obama 55% or more of the Vote in Primaries
African American Population Percentage by County
So, if Obama's support is more limited than his campaign states, why are people over at Daily Kos and on other Obama blogs saying things like this:
I don't care about White, Working Class Blue-Collar Voters.
We won't need your votes beginning with this election.
We'll have enough votes elsewhere.
I'm sorry to be so blunt about it, but you wonder if anyone in West Virginia ever wakes up in the morning, takes a look at the incredible poverty throughout the state and asks "Do you think we maybe need to open our minds a bit?"
Finally, the beauty contest primary last night in Nebraska serves to underscore that Obama's caucus victories, while impressive, do not reflect the percentage of support on the ground. Yes, Obama won these Western caucuses in dramatic fashion. David Axelrod is to be credited for a superb understanding of the delegate process - while Mark Penn is to have his picture in the dictionary next to "stupid". Still, there have now been three Western states that have held a primary and a caucus. In both Washington and Nebraska, Obama won the caucuses by huge margins, two to one or more, but won the primary by only a few points. In Texas, Obama won the caucus, but lost the primary.
Washington Caucus Primary
Obama 21,768 67.56% 354,112 51.17%
Clinton 10,038 31.15% 315,744 45.63%
Nebraska Caucus Primary
Obama 26,126 67.56% 46,279 49.36%
Clinton 12,445 32.18% 43,614 46.52%
Texas Caucus Primary
Obama 23,907 56.18% 1,362,476 47.39%
Clinton 18,603 43.72% 1,462,734 50.88%
What all of this suggests to me is that Obama's support is neither as deep nor as wide as his promoters advertise. Not only is Obama's support more limited than believed, but the Obama campaign also appears willing to dismiss core Democratic demographics. There are no caucuses in the general election. And while Obama's supporters are talking "landslide" in November, I am fearful of another Dukakis debacle.