11 April 2008

The road to defeat

Until March, I felt pretty confident that the Democratic party would retake the executive branch this year and put an end to the Republican reign of ignorance and incompetence. I'm now much more pessimistic. Here's why.

(1) The Wright connection makes Obama unelectable in November. It doesn't matter what the polls are currently saying, or what the head-to-head Obama-McCain matchups are currently showing (essentially a tie, as do the Clinton-McCain matchups), or that the media are pushing the line that Obama has "weathered the storm" and put the problem behind him. The Wright affair is a fatal blow; Obama's speech did not answer the real questions. If Obama is the nominee, the Republicans will use Wright against him with devastating effect. The Wright weapon will be especially effective at destroying Obama in the eyes of the centrist blue-collar voters who are heavily concentrated in swing states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- where the election will be decided. Furious denunciations of those who raise this point do not change the reality of the situation. If Obama is our nominee, then barring some very unlikely development, McCain will win in November and continue leading the nation along the disastrous trail blazed by Bush, while completing the wrecking of the Supreme Court.

Notice that my argument here does not depend on whether or not the Wright connection actually implies anything negative about Obama's own character; I think it does, but that isn't the point. The point is that, rightly or wrongly, it renders him unable to win the general election. That being the case, he must not become the Democratic nominee. This may seem unfair, but the stakes are too high to allow any other decision. The need to prevent the disaster of another Republican administration is more important than the ambitions of any one individual.

(Let me make an analogy. I'm an atheist, but I would not want the Democratic party to nominate an avowed atheist for President, because he almost certainly could not win the general election. This would be unfair to such a candidate, but it is the reality of the situation. Nominating an avowed atheist would mean a Republican victory in November, therefore the party should not do it.)

(2) The Democratic party rank and file does not realize that the Wright connection makes Obama unelectable in November. Most polls suggest that the Democratic base has bought into the "weathered the storm" narrative. With several states including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana, and my own state of Oregon yet to vote, it's still too early to predict the outcome of what remains a close race; but no poll of Democratic voters that I have seen has shown the kind of massive turning away from Obama that would indicate that these voters grasp the danger. Obama retains a lead, however slim, in popular votes and delegates. If the race continues along its current trajectory, he will be the nominee and will duly go down to defeat in November.

This leaves two obvious questions: Does the party establishment, including the superdelegates, understand the threat which the rank and file does not? And if so, will they have the guts to do anything about it? I see no evidence one way or the other on either of these questions.

If the superdelegates now realize (or come to realize before the convention) that Obama is unelectable, they still have it in their power to deny him the nomination. Whether they would have the courage to do so is quite another matter. His highly-enthusiastic supporters would be disappointed and angry, especially if he still led in popular votes and pledged delegates at that time.

That's why Clinton must continue to fight on -- the more she can narrow Obama's lead, or especially if she manages to take the lead in popular votes, the easier it will be for the superdelegates to do the right thing for the party and for the nation, in order to prevent a Republican victory in November.

I hope, of course, that "to do the right thing" will mean nominating Clinton. However, even as a Clinton supporter, I must recognize that this may not be the case. It may be that Obama's supporters would accept some such compromise nominee more readily than they would accept Clinton -- and would thus be more willing to vote for that nominee in November (there is, after all, an obvious choice for such a compromise). If so, then that is what the party must do. It would be terribly unfair to Clinton, but again, the need to prevent the disaster of another Republican administration is more important than the ambitions of any one individual.

A superdelegate-led coronation of Clinton or of a compromise candidate would be a radical and risky path for the party to take. The nomination of Obama, by contrast, is the easy road, the straight road, the obvious road. It is the road to defeat.

Update (13 April 2008): Read this too.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

It would help if the Obama folks learned how to fight back. For instance, every time the Republicans bring up Wright, bring up Hagee, Paris, and Falwell (he's been dead long enough, right?) 10 times. Every time the Republicans bring up "surrender in Iraq", bring up the fact that we're refereeing a civil war and the embarrassing reality that McCain (who, I'll admit it, I supported 8 years ago) doesn't apparently know (or care about) the difference between Sunnis ans Shia. Play for keeps, in other words.

12 April, 2008 08:47  
Blogger the chaplain said...

Clinton and Obama are both getting tarnished by this prolonged primary season and its resultant catfighting. Obama is starting to make errors that the Republicans may be able to use to swiftboat him. The Dems may yet manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as inconceivable as that possibility should be after 8 years of Dumbya.

13 April, 2008 15:45  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

It would help if the Obama folks learned how to fight back.

Unfortunately it would be very hard to fight back effectively. For example, the real damage Wright causes with the critical blue-collar voters in the swing states has to do with his specifically America-bashing rhetoric, and one can't point to much of that from the right-wing preachers you mention, crazy as they are. I think McCain has repudiated his connection with Hagee -- precisely what Obama failed to do with Wright. And of course there's now "Bittergate" compounding the damage.

The only way to salvage the situation is to nominate someone else.

15 April, 2008 06:17  
Blogger Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

This is what happens when an inexperienced, unvetted candidate comes out of nowhere. We transfer our most romanticized notions onto them and, boom, we end up disappointed.

15 April, 2008 14:13  
Blogger Papamoka said...

It's only fair to say that Barack Obama was not present when the comments by Reverend Wright were made.

I think you have to consider the large number of new voters that the Democrat's have enrolled and that same fire in the belly is not present in the Republican camp of John McCain.

Hillary or Obama, either one will trounce McCain in November.

23 April, 2008 12:04  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

The guy was Obama's pastor for twenty years. He knew what kind of bile Wright was spouting. Yet he chose to stay.

Hillary or Obama, either one will trounce McCain in November.

I hope you're right, but we'll have a far better chance with Clinton. This election will still probably come down to the usual swing states, most of which contain a lot of voters who will be very susceptible to Republican attacks on Obama using Wright.

I happen to think Clinton would also make a much better President than Obama, but the first order of business is to make sure we win the election.

23 April, 2008 13:55  

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