2008/01/30

Electability?!

Edwards is out of the race, so what do we do now? On one level it makes no difference - the most important task, as it always has been, is to organize grassroots support for progressive policies and start creating democratic businesses. Edwards wasn't a true progressive anyway - an Edwards victory would have left us in a better position to push our policies, but we would have still had to organize to hold him to his word.

But it's also worth thinking about the electability issue. I find it distasteful, because I've always believed that we should vote for people who are actually giving us something we want, not just taking it away at a slower rate. But we tried the "heightening the contradictions" approach in 2000, and Bush actually fit the bill much better than expected. I thought he'd be marginally worse than Gore, but he (or rather the people actually deciding his policies) exceeded all expectations. So what about those contradictions? All the anti-Bush outrage didn't produce a new radical movement. Instead it's gone into wonkish blogging and great enthusiasm for candidates whose policies are somewhat better than Gore's were, but fundamentally of the same reformist/capitalist/imperialist nature.

So maybe it's time to try a corporate Democrat again, and hope that this time we've learned from the shocking passivity of the left during the Clinton '90s. The question then is - would Clinton or Obama be more likely to beat McCain?

I'm pretty sure Clinton would lose to McCain. The right wing's amazing and completely irrational hatred of her is the one thing that could effectively unify it behind a candidate it doesn't really like. Meanwhile, McCain appeals strongly to independents and probably some Democrats. McCain's big potential weakness is Iraq - if things start going badly again his consistent support for the war would hurt him. Except Clinton also voted for the war, came late and unconvincingly to oppose it, and is also very right-wing on other foreign policy issues like Iran.

Obama's foreign policies are pretty much the same as Clinton's, but the popular perception of them is not. If the war became an issue again, it would tremendously help Obama against McCain. Obama is also very attractive to independents and would probably hold Democrats together better. Unlike Clinton, Obama is likely to draw large numbers of politically disengaged people into the election, which would also probably increase the Democrats' gains in Congress. The far right, without the Clinton demon to rally against, would turn out in fewer numbers. I think Obama would probably beat McCain pretty easily.

I'm certainly not arguing that people in liberal states like New York, Illinois, or California should vote for Obama on election day. If the Democrat doesn't win those states, he or she has no hope of winning the election, so go ahead and vote Green. But voting for Obama on February 5 is worth considering. I just don't know if I can bring myself to do it.

4 comments:

kyle said...

I mostly agree with this analysis, and shockingly enough do find myself pulling for Obama.

I wonder how the Latino vote would break down with an Obama-McCain election though. Latinos are voting hard in Clinton's favor and you have to think the long-standing black-brown divide is at least part of the reason. That probably isn't going to disappear come November. Would McCain tout his immigration reform work to try to grab some of the vote, or stay away from it because of conservatives? It's hard to imagine the Latino vote not going to the Democrat overall, but still, it's hard for me to predict how it would play out. Thoughts?

Also, I spent way too much time watching primary coverage last night.

kyle said...

As a follow-up on my own comment, I think it's worth wondering how much Clinton is aggravating this whole Black-Brown divide to begin with. A decent post by my friend Terry Keleher on the RaceWire blog references an LA Times column and points out:

"In 1983, Harold Washington received 80% of the Latino vote in Chicago; in 1989, David Dinkins pulled 73% in New York; in 1991, Denver’s Wellington Web pulled more than 70%; as did Ron Kirk in Dallas for three elections from 1995-99. Furthermore, former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley also won clear Latino majorities in four mayoral reelection campaigns. Historically, the hype that Latinos won’t support an African American doesn’t hold water."

Which makes me wonder, is Clinton really that much more appealing to Latinos? If so, why?

RaceWire.org has been running some good commentary in general. Dorian Warren, who did a lot of living wage organizing here in Chicago, wrote a post today as well. Hopefully Colorlines can bring some reasonable insight in come election time.

Patrick said...

At this point, most of my amusement is reserved for the fact that some conservatives who always decried Hillary Clinton as disgustingly liberal are now back-pedaling in their desperate attempt to paint John McCain as liberal. The great Ann Coulter actually said that, if McCain is the GOP nominee, then Clinton is her pick - because McCain, get this, is more liberal than Clinton.

Well, you know, Coulter might be right. Kinda says a lot right there.

Jake said...

this article explains the gap in latino support by noting that obama basically didn't campaign among latinos until the last minute. clinton, meanwhile, had been lining up endorsements for several years (LA mayor villaraigosa's was particularly important). i don't doubt that there is some racism among latinos, but given the demonstrated willingness of latinos to vote for black candidates and the fact that obama and mccain have a similar position on immigration, i would guess that the latino vote would go for obama in the general election. particularly if there's a right-wing third-party candidate attacking mccain on immigration.