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Party may suffer from an Obama candidacy
  By Gene Lyons

If Hillary Clinton had no other reason to keep running for the nomination, it would be to 
demonstrate that Tim Russert, Keith Olbermann, Maureen Dowd, David Broder and the 
Beltway media gas bags don't decide American elections. Last week, Obama, the supposedly 
inevitable Democratic nominee, lost the West Virginia primary by 41 points. Democrats haven't 
taken the presidency without winning the Mountain State since 1916. 

To use a geographically appropriate metaphor, if there has ever been a canaryin-a-coal-mine primary, 
that was it. Naturally, the media consensus saw a meaningless result in a race they'd already called for 
Obama. Evidently, bitter West Virginia rednecks don't watch cable TV. In 2000, the same pundit chorus 
urged Al Gore to quit in Florida for the sake of the country (and the Republican Party ). Everybody knows 
how that worked out. Today, Gore's a Nobel laureate. George W. Bush, like Obama a uniter, not a divider, 
became the most unpopular, ineffective president in U. S. history. Ever heard any media princelings explain 
how they went so comprehensively wrong ? Me neither.

If nominated, Obama can't possibly defeat Sen. John McCain without bringing Clinton voters to him. 
Recently, however, I've been hearing from many passionate Democrats who say they can't and won't 
vote for him in November, so I asked a few to explain why.

Mine is no scientific survey. Ranging from 26 to 86, my correspondents live in seven states, North, South 
and Midwest. They don't know each other personally. None participates in politics except on a local, 
volunteer basis. I chose them because they're unusually articulate.

Most think Obama a sure loser in the McGovern, Dukakis tradition. They believe he's totally unqualified.

"I've voted for every Democrat from president to dog-catcher since 1952. That will end with Obama," 
insists H. in Maine. "He won't get 150 electoral votes, more than he deserves. The Democratic Party's 
been teetering on the edge of extinction. Obama's arrogance will kill it....

" Just four years out of the state Senate. If he were white or female, his candidacy would be a joke. 
Imagine if he'd opted to run for vice president with Hillary. Mc-Cain would lose, Democrats would 
come close to 60 Senate seats and pick up 35 in the House. The Democratic left's need to swoon 
after eight years of a moron, coupled with unbridled Clinton hatred, will produce a disaster for the 
party and country." It's the Obama campaign's cynical use of race beginning in South Carolina that's 
the deal-breaker for others.

"He is making his way to Denver by dividing our party over race, which is maybe the most idiotic 
campaign tactic ever," writes C. in Kansas. "This time the witch hunt is coming from our side. 
It's heartbreaking. Obama supporters want you to think Bill and Hillary Clinton are lifelong members 
of the KKK. The audacity of hope campaign has had the audacity to go there.... This fall, they'll try 
to make nice and talk unity, but the people they alienated in the most hateful way won't be there. 
They deserve to lose for being so callous and childish." 

J. in Florida agrees: "Obama and his supporters' use of the 'race card' against the Clintons (with the 
help of the in-the-tank media ) is sickening.  Now we have vile, racist, crazed-for-power Hillary. 
Obama means to avoid the 'divisiveness' of the Clinton years by blaming it on them. That's a 
despicable lie, and he knows it. The only way of avoiding divisiveness is to cave to the Republican 
agenda, which I believe he's more than eager to do."   "He and his supporters, " J. adds, " have 
systematically sacrificed the central constituency of the Democratic Party - the poor and working
class - on the altar of constituencies who look to politics for reaffirmation of their identity: college 
students and childish Sixties neo-libs. (The African American constituency makes sense, so no 
gripes there. )" By abandoning the principle of universality in health insurance, most think Obama has 
guaranteed that meaningful reform cannot be achieved. Z. in Georgia adds that Obama's vagueness on 
economic issues foretells disaster. "He has no perceptible position on the economy other than 'We can 
do better. Yes, we can. Say it with me.' 

I foresee broken campaign promises followed by belt-tightening austerity measures in a one-term presidency. 
In short, Jimmy Carter in a better-tailored sweater." " I view the Obama candidacy as a narcissistic endeavor 
by a mediocre politician dividing Democrats along social vs. economic progressive lines, " J. insists. 
"He's forcing a choice between winning in 2008 and possibly saving Roe vs. Wade and promoting gay marriage 
vs. fighting for the poor and working class. " I've decided I won't help Obama and his personality cult transform 
the Democratic Party into an organization that represents only the interests of rich, social liberals." What do I think? 
I suspect most will grudgingly return by November, but that non-African American working-class voters won't.

Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award. 

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