Obama's biggest victories on Super Tuesday (not counting Illinois, which is a gimme, just as I wouldn't count either Arkansas or New York for Clinton) were in either 1) primary states where black voters make up a very large share of the Democratic vote -- Alabama, Georgia (about half) -- of Democratic voters, though in Delaware blacks were about a quarter of primary voters or 2) in caucus states (Idaho, Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota and Kansas), which reflect mobilization of activists, not appeal to the electorate.
In the other primary states, he and Clinton ran basically neck and neck (CT and MO) or she beat him handily (CA, NJ, TN, MA -- where all the Kennedys in the world, John Kerry and Deval Patrick couldn't help him), again not counting NY and AR, where she also won handily.
This repeats the pattern of Jesse Jackson's 1988 campaign, where 9 of his 13 victories while the nomination was still in play were in caucus rather than primary states. It also reinforces suspicion that Obama's "historic first" is mainly an ultimately amnesiac replay of the feel-good diversion that was Jackson's campaign, which was also touted as basically the same "historic first." The difference here is that Obama is more conservative than Jackson and offers patter about "hope" and "transcendence" and post-partisan "bringing us together" instead of "hope" and bringing together the "locked out."
As I reminded my class Tuesday, only five black people have been elected to serve either as governor or US senator -- i.e., to significant statewide office -- since the end of Reconstruction. One of those, Ed Brooke, was a two-term MA liberal Republican in the Senate, another, Patrick, was just elected MA governor. Of the others, Carol Moseley Braun was a one-term senator elected on a fluke -- an unanticipated three-way split in the Democratic primary that she won with little more than a third of the vote, a weak GOP opponent put up as part of a rotten deal between the Bush administration and the incumbent Democratic senator to get his vote for Clarence Thomas's confirmation to the Supreme Court, and a Year of the Woman bounce, partly motivated by the Thomas/Hill controversy, that got her a lot of suburban Chicago Republican women's votes. Obama, as has been his good fortune in all but one -- when he was trounced in a challenge for Bobby Rush's Congressional seat -- of his electoral races, ran basically unopposed for his US Senate seat.
In the cold light of this record, it's difficult to believe that he could win the presidency. I'm not sure that he's garnered a majority of white Democratic voters in any of the primary states yet.
On the basis of demographics, I imagine he'll win Louisiana and that it'll follow the same pattern as the other southern primaries. It's true, on the one hand, that these are southern states, where we should expect white racial voting to be especially pronounced, but, on the other hand, Democratic primaries are skewed, somewhat less so if they permit crossover voting, toward those white voters who don't mind voting the same way blacks do.
This might seem to add up to an argument that HRC is more electable, but the problem, of course, is that she has her own baggage that will weigh her down in the presidential race. My sense is that the GOP are just waiting in preparation for either of them much as General Giap waited for the French paratroopers to dig in at Dienbienphu.
Addendum: The states in which Obama has done best -- the southern primary states and most of the caucus states except Minnesota and North Dakota -- are states Dems have little to no chance of carrying in November. His boosters' claims that his performance in those states is an indication of his crossover appeal are ridiculous. In the southern states a white Republican bloc vote will overwhelm the black vote. In the caucus states he hasn't met any electoral challenge at all.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Thoughts on Super Tuesday
In an email Adolph Reed writes:
Posted by red rabbit at 3:32 PM