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
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
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
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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