Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Backlash Hypothesis

Kevin Drum flags some dangers ahead for Democrats if the refuse to nominate Obama...and Hillary.

In the former case, Jerome Karabel notes that political loyalties are solidified in one's 20s. Coincidentally, that age group represents Barack Obama's base. If they feel spurned at the end of the primary process, they not only could sit out the election, their view of the Democratic Party could be jaundiced for the rest of their lives.

In the latter case, Amanda Fortini says women are beginning to get restless -- not that Clinton is losing, but that people are denying the role sexism is playing in the campaign. The Clinton campaign awoke "sexism in America, long lying dormant, like some feral, tranquilized animal," but too many (in the immortal phrase of Ann Bartow) supposedly liberal doods shout down any woman who dares bring it up (see also, Ampersand). If their frustration boils over, they could stay home election night.

Drum thinks that ultimately, neither will play a big role in the general, as the prospect of a McCain Presidency draws everyone back to the polls. Color me unconvinced. The politically engaged always over-estimate how much "the other guy is scary as hell" serves as a motivator. I will say that I'm more worried short-term about women staying home or crossing over than I am about the youth vote (not because I don't think nominating Clinton would have an effect, but because I think that Obama has pushed their engagement to such heights that at worst they'd "recede" back to normal figures). But of course, I think that if Clinton gets the nod after coming in behind in the pledged delegates, Democrats will also watch the Black vote disintegrate before their very eyes, which probably would be even worse. And the long-term harms of passing over Obama that Karabel notes are a unique danger that I hadn't thought of before.


Anonymous said...

I see the supers-put-Clinton-in as far more damaging by any measure. First and foremost because it would be to most an unacceptable internal Democratic Party replay of the election of 2000. Number two, the African American vote would vanish from the political scene entirely, and likely for many years to come. Number three, all those new young registered voters will be so disenchanted, they could very well abandon politics for the rest of their lives, or worse, decide the Democratic Party demonstrably is not, and move to the other side of the political divide.

I believe Hillary's base, which seems to be white women over 50, represent the short-term present, but mostly in that context, the past of the Party. They were once the newly registered young activist voters, and we needed them then, just as we desperately need the newly registered young voters of today for the future. We simply can't afford to lose all these voters and demographics long-term just to satisfy Hillary Clinton's ego and lust for power.

Anonymous said...

anonymous above basically repeated the mantra i've seen all over the net - we older women are the past and not needed. the poster forgets that we are older, but not dead yet. for the next 20 or 30 years, the poster will have to deal with our existence. we are indeed relevant. or maybe he just doesn't care about the next 20 or 30 years.

the poster also says we can't lose young and african-american voters "just to satisfy Hillary Clinton's ego and lust for power." this quote reveals much about the poster. it reveals nothing, however, about the issues. the reality is that hillary clinton is simply much more capable than obama. she is also much more electable.

the poster suffers from the same hubris my generation, including myself, suffered from in the past.
btw, poster, i was absolutely shocked that my candidate mcgovern lost. he was many times better than your candidate, but lost in a landslide for the same reasons your candidate will.

PG said...

Though not specific to women, Obama has targeted proposals toward senior citizens, including his idea to stop requiring those with income less than $50k to file tax returns. He certainly has not treated that constituency dismissively.

btw, poster, i was absolutely shocked that my candidate mcgovern lost. he was many times better than your candidate, but lost in a landslide for the same reasons your candidate will.

Ah, McGovern, who first voted for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and then became an opponent of the Vietnam War. Sure that Obama is the Democratic candidate who best parallels McGovern's record?

So far as I know, Obama intends neither to pick a VP who has a history of mental health problems nor to advocate for amnesty for those who left the country to avoid military service and for legalization of drugs. Obama also shows absolutely no sign of losing his own state, a Democratic stronghold (where he won the primary 65-33; Clinton won NY by a smaller margin of 57-40).

One actual similarity between Obama and McGovern is that both believe the Democratic primary voters should decide who the nominee is, rather than party insiders. I just hope that if Clinton's supporters don't get their establishment candidate the nomination, they don't form "Democrats for McCain." Given Clinton's portrayal of McCain as a better commander in chief than Obama would be, it seems distinctly possible. In contrast, I've never heard of Obama's implying that McCain would be preferable to Clinton in any respect.