A recent Associated Press story glibly proclaimed that “deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House.” The story relied on an AP-Yahoo poll that posed questions regarding race to white Democrats.
One is left to wonder why questions regarding race were not posed to black Democrats or why the “poll” was more of a word association test, left open to completely subjective reasoning in deciphering results. But anyone who has been following the Democratic Party rifts from this season’s primaries and caucuses would not, in my opinion, be inclined to buy the it’s-all-about-race argument.
It’s quite troubling, really, that mainstream media outlets are focusing upon “racial misgivings” factors, while all but ignoring the major divides among voting constituencies that occurred during the nominating contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. These rifts revolved much more around exactly how Barack Obama received the Democratic nomination than any sort of racial divide or even sour grapes.
In fact, there are dozens of voter groups which claim outright that Barack Obama’s nomination was garnered illegitimately and with decidedly undemocratic methods. These are the PUMA people, the NoBama folks, the caucus-fraud investigators, and a whole lot of others who fervently believe that Barack Obama is not the legitimate nominee of the Democratic Party electorate, but the nominee of the party elite and caucus strong-arm tactics.
If Barack Obama loses a large swath of traditionally Democratic voters in November, then the party should conduct serious introspection, not point fingers at white bigots and rednecks.
Howard Dean and his minions who control the Democratic Party apparatus should examine the methods used by Obama to grab the nomination and his manipulation of the caucus system, and take a long, serious look inward to see if their party still deserves the adjective “democratic.”
In the Democratic nominating contest, some votes count more than others
When the Democratic Party changed all of its nominating rules following the convention of 1968, the goal of nominating a candidate who could win the general election was changed to a goal of nominating a candidate representative of the various special constituencies of the party and rewarding party loyalty, not electability.
At the beginning of the contest, the African-American vote was split in Clinton’s favor, especially on the gender line.
In October 2007, a few months before the Iowa caucus, Hillary Clinton had a large polling lead among African-Americans. According to CNN polling in mid-October:
Among black registered Democrats overall, Clinton had a 57 percent to 33 percent lead over Obama.
That’s up from 53 percent for Clinton and 36 percent for Obama in a poll carried out in April.
The 26-point difference between black women and men underscores the fact that the nation’s vote is divided not only by race, but also by gender, said CNN political analyst Bill Schneider. “Black women don’t just vote their black identity,” he said. “They also vote their identity as women.”
But by mid-January, after Obama won the Iowa caucus and nearly won New Hampshire, the black vote had solidified for Obama, proving quite decisive in a number of states. CNN summarized:
“There’s been a huge shift among African-American Democrats from Clinton to Obama. African-American Democrats used to be reluctant to support Obama because they didn’t think a black man could be elected. Then Obama won Iowa and nearly won New Hampshire. Now they believe,” said Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst.
“Obama’s lead over Clinton among black men is more than 50 points, and among black women, once a Clinton stronghold, Obama has an 11-point advantage,” said CNN polling director Keating Holland.
Indeed, it was the major shift of black women voters to Obama, coupled with the special weighting formulas for awarding delegates, which helped to produce favorable odds for Obama to take the nomination.
As the Associated Press detailed in May, Obama used party rules to foil Hillary Clinton, and he did it mainly by solidifying the black vote:
Under Democratic rules, congressional districts with a history of strong support for Democratic candidates are rewarded with more delegates than districts that are more Republican. Some districts packed with Democratic voters can have as many as eight or nine delegates up for grabs, while more Republican districts in the same state have three or four.
The system is designed to benefit candidates who do well among loyal Democratic constituencies, and none is more loyal than black voters. Obama, who would be the first black candidate nominated by a major political party, has been winning 80 percent to 90 percent of the black vote in most primaries, according to exit polls.
“Black districts always have a large number of delegates because they are the highest performers for the Democratic Party,” said Elaine Kamarck, a Harvard University professor who is writing a book about the Democratic nominating process.
Hillary’s white-woman status hurt her. If she had been a black woman, she might have held the vast majority of black female voters, which would have probably given her the nomination.
As the contest continued, however, black women voted their race, not their gender.
Did Hillary Clinton feel that she was owed the nomination because she was white, as Father Pfleger so boldly suggested at Trinity UCC in May? Even if she did feel “white privilege,” it certainly did not help her. In fact, it would seem that her race decidedly hurt her in this nominating contest.
Was the contest truly democratic? A great many former Democrat voters don’t think so. And they intend to exercise their voices with their votes on November 4.
Obama and caucus fraud
One Democratic primary voter with a strong background in mathematics, Dr. Lynette Long, has launched a probe into the lopsided caucus victories of Barack Obama, which indeed garnered the nomination.
I’ve spent the past two months immersed in data from the 2008 Democratic caucuses. After studying the procedures and results from all fourteen caucus states, interviewing dozens of witnesses, and reviewing hundreds of personal stories, my conclusion is that the Obama campaign willfully and intentionally defrauded the American public by systematically undermining the caucus process.
The data compiled by Dr. Long, along with the video-recorded testimonials of dozens of caucus-goers, are indeed convincing. According to Dr. Long, in a personal interview, reports from caucus attendees are pretty horrifying at worst, wholly undemocratic at best. Female Clinton supporters reported being called “c**ts” and other sexual epithets, being spat upon by Obama supporters, being threatened physically, and an overall environment of hostility. Not exactly the democratic process to which we are accustomed.
In the end, it was the caucus states, where such strong-arm tactics were employed by Obama supporters, which finally gave Obama the victory. As Dr. Long points out, the only caucus in the entire nominating contest that Obama lost was Nevada. In every other caucus, Obama prevailed.
But far, far different results came from state primaries that relied only upon one-person-one-vote counting and a secret ballot. Dr. Long’s analysis showed wide discrepancies between margins of victory in caucus versus primary states, and summarized thusly:
At the end of the Democratic primary, one-hundred twenty-three pledged delegates separated Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. Senator Obama’s campaign argued that the superdelegates should follow the lead of pledged delegates; otherwise they would be stealing the election from Obama. Originally designed to select the most electable candidate if neither candidate received the majority of delegates on pledged delegates alone, the superdelegates could vote for either candidate. Afraid of disenfranchising the large African-American base, they committed to Obama. Since Clinton won the majority of the popular vote, and eight of the ten largest states, and almost all the swing states, she was clearly the most electable.
Of course, the bottom line for disaffected Democrats may be partly sour grapes over their own candidate’s loss. But in speaking with Dr. Long and several other lifelong, loyal Democrats who now plan to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket, the dissatisfaction seems to be much more than sour grapes, racism, or any of the other charges being bandied about at the moment.
If Barack Obama indeed loses this election, in what is unquestionably a perfect-storm year for Democrats, then the party ought to quit looking solely outside themselves for the blame and start engaging in some soul-searching introspection.
And Hillary Clinton can, at the very least, tell Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and every other Democrat insider: “I told you so, didn’t I?”