Economic and political analysis-Window on culture-Media criticism

Thursday, April 24, 2008

To be VP: Obama's path to the Presidency

Writing in Smirking Chimp, RJ Eskow explained one reason for difference between pre-voting polls and the final result in Pennslvania: the Bradley effect, "where white voters are reluctant to tell pollsters that they won't vote for a black candidate."

I'd gone on in detail about voting discrepancies in the New Hampshire primary. The pre-polls were strongly in Obama's favor yet the end result told different, with Hillary winning strongly. The closet racists "laying bare their inner demons behind the voting curtain" that I talked about in my last post could be reflected in those people who don't admit that they don't want to vote for Obama because he's black.

Both exit- and pre-polls could be distorted by this factor, to which Eskow attributed an accurate election differential of 9.5% in Hillary's favor even as polls were projecting a narrower spread.

I think voters hiding their prejudices to pollsters could explain some of the New Hampshire discrepancy. But could this be the sole factor explaining why people didn't vote for Obama? Reports of voting irregularities in some of the largely African American communities did come out of Pennslyvania. Reports of electronic vote fraud persist as they did in New Hampshire. {For more information, bradblog.com covers voting problems which go unaddressed by the mainstream media.} While disenfranchisement and voting irregularities might explain a few points, the remaining schism between polls and actual results might be attributed to the race factor.

Did Obama blink?

The momentum seems to have shifted in Clinton's favor. I did notice that Obama's speech after losing in Pennslyvania seemed a little short of self-exultation. Obama hedged a little, and inserted "the Democratic candidate" a few times instead of mentioning himself, which might show newly emerging doubt in his belief in the certainty of victory.

There does seem to be a general shift toward an inevitable end to the Obama magic that's held the Democrats spell-bound. It could all end here in Indiana. Suspicions that Obama might be waiting to capitulate to Hillary have begun to circulate.

Commenting under a Rob Kall article on OpEdNews.com, Mark Sashine describes a scenario where Obama would step down, and the Democrats cave in to the GOP:
Obama and his people openly announce what we all understand- that Clintonians are aiming for the defeat in November- he will not be a nominee. It is as clear as a whistle. It is not clear if Obama is a part of the whole plan (GOP-Dem deal) or he and his people are just naive as Hell. Most likely both. The MSM works like a perfect orchestra. slowly but surely sqeezing Obama out of the game and preparing the public for the 'strategic' Denver decision when Obama is going to be acknowledged but for the good of the party Hillary will become a nominee.

Sashine's idea that Hillary is going through an 18-month primary season (and just about her whole wad as well) just to bow out to McCain is ridiculous. Still, Sashine does have a point that the leadership of the Democrats--the Democratic National Leadership Committee--and the GOP are corporatists sympathetic to the Right wing and in many ways no different from each other.

Another factor accounting for suspicions about Clinton is the fact that Hillary's husband Bill is in the opinion of many on the left a sell-out to corporate interests. Hillary does have plenty of reasons to be disliked, but fewer en toto than McCain.

Hillary's present hawkishness could be perceived as the product of ties to the Business Right, military industrial complex, etc.. While the hawkishness might be very real concerning the enemies of Israel, I believe Hillary is positioning herself politically and it's all done for show, to appeal to a specific segment--the Reagan Democrats, God and guns people.

The conservative wing of the Democratic party may be the key to victory in November. Reagan Democrats make up a vital constituency in the swing states, which are where Obama has done somewhat worse than Hillary. The Obama camp could claim that their victories over Hillary in the key battlegrounds of Virginia and Colorado qualify their candidate. But is Obama's popularity enough to lead him to victory over McCain?

Much of Hillary's posturing is meant to drive the key conservative demographic to her side. I don't think her allegiance to a particularly conservative position goes beyond the superficial. She wants to be seen as a hawk on defense, so she advocated "demolishing" Iran should it strike Israel.

Even if Hillary is posing, and is a dove at heart and will pursue non-intervention and a speedy withdrawal from Iraq once she ascends to the Presidency, she's politically savvy enough to embrace militarism superficially, for purely political reasons, to get her elected. This isn't to say she's not hawkish, but merely asserts the truth that hawkishness is a virtue in Red state politics.

Both Obama and Hillary have been clever to latch onto "fear fatigue" the approach used by the GOP to motivate voters since 9/11. Approaching the resolution of problem without frightening Americans has become good political common sense, with much the Bush nightmare passing into history. Criticizing the failure of Iraq policy and its high costs in troops and treasure will rally the Democratic base but could also alienate people who voted for Bush believing that the Iraq War was necessary in the battle against terror. More clever and effective is poking holes in the Bush-era habit of fear-mongering with its near-constant crying of wolf. Much of this political opportunism has been laid out in Olbermann's Nexus of Politics and Terror about which I've said much.

Most Americans can't understand international geopolitics so Hillary must be careful not to cast blame on voter ignorance for the Iraq debacle. Instead Hillary will need to channel anti-Iraq War rage against Bush and McCain, who appears willing to carry the status quo forward. The current approach in Iraq with its constantly delayed and elusive "victory" mean that staying the course will only get more of the same--more dead Americans, more resistance to our presence in Iraq. This means McCain will be carrying considerable baggage into the General Election, with opposition to Iraq leveraged in Hillary's favor, assuming she's the nominee.

In 2004, Bush dodged the blowback that has cursed the United States in the global political arena and diminished its stature. GOP strategists shifted the debate to Kerry's Vietnam record and the war on terror. By so doing Bush won over the key "God and Guns" demographic in the heartland. These are people who'd identify more with the ongoing exercise of American military force, even with highly dubious result circa 2004, rather than confront the possibility of Vietnam-like defeat. Four years later, enough of these people, led perhaps by their wives, have reconsidered the foolishness of Bush's foreign policy, and will expect some significant policy improvements out of McCain.

There will of course be a hardcore element supporting endless war no matter what the results in the short-term. These ultra-nationalists will dig their heels in, but they vote GOP in most elections, so they might not be drawn to the Democratic ticket no matter who's on it.

Obama, the Natural Choice for VP

Obama walking away from his candidacy for President would be a high price to pay for him, but he could receive political dividends should he stand down and Hillary win.

To accept second place would be an act of remarkable compromise. I think Obama's reputation would be no worse for it, though I'm sure many in his camp would be revolted by the possibility of having to work with the "Wicked Witch of the East."

Obama would make an excellent Vice President. He'd retain a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. I can't think of a better person to send abroad and to deal with domestic race issues. Four or eight years in that position would give him the polish he needs, in areas outside his obviously perfect oratory and speech delivery. Diplomacy and foreign affairs are vital components to every President's skill set, and with only four years in the Senate, Obama isn't well enough prepared--yet.

A VP selection would also allow Obama unprecedented access to the Office of the President. He could help shape policies which so desperately need revision after eight years of Bush rule. Working within the federal government would give Obama far more political power than he could accumulate over two or three terms in the Senate.

VP would also allow him to nurture and build a very strong corps of young Americans, who're clearly the future of our country. As a young Boomer, Obama can act as a conduit for younger people; he's clearly excellent at articulating what younger people want. As a Senator from Illinois, Obama will still be a national figure should he run in 2016, assuming Hillary gets a second term. Eight years might seem like eternity in the minds of young people, who may be voting for the first time largely because of Obama.

Honestly America needs Hillary, but Obama completes the picture. The two do have a close personal relationship. Battered though it may have been by Hillary's negative attack ads, the Obama-Hillary friendship will continue. As a matter of fact, I think we'll see in the fall election that Hillary was far less negative in her primary fight with Obama then McCain, who she'll savage.

I think we'll see in the force of Hillary's attack on McCain just how mean she can be. Like many other Democrats tired of defeat, I want someone who'll take it to McCain. Most importantly they must be able to win.

Final Chapter on Obama?

Here's the narrative most likely to emerge in the Media: Obama almost beat her. Then the establishment politics kicked in. The key swing states sided with her over Obama. Democratic party leaders and superdelegate insiders went with Hillary based on the likelihood of her winning in the states the Democrats must take: Ohio and Florida.

It's valuable to note that primary results in the states likely to go Red anyway don't matter much. Whatever strength a Democratic candidate can muster in very conservative Red states is highly diluted come general election time.

Primaries and general elections are radically different beasts. What wins in a state that has maybe 40% black Democratic primary voters may fail utterly when the General Election reduces the proportion of African Americans to 20% or so. North Carolina is an excellent example. Even when native son John Edwards found his way on the national ticket as a Vice Presidential candidate in 2004, North Carolina went for Bush. Could Obama do any better--at the top of the ticket no less?

Fortunately Obama's popularity in Illinois is beyond contention, so Illinois will go Democratic should Obama get the VP slot (or not.)

Obama's success in the inter-mountain west primaries could auger well for the Democratic cause in those places come November should he get on the ticket. Most Westerners are very distrusting of D.C. and the federal government. Obama, being far less of an establishment candidate than either Hillary or McCain, could feasibly do quite well. Unfortunately for Obama, the populations of most of those states is quite low and would therefore make little impact on the overall electoral vote for the Presidency. Hillary could gain much from him in those places though.

Bottom line is that a Democrat wins the Presidency. At this point I really don't care if it's Obama or Hillary who wins except by virtue of the Hillary greater popularity where it really matters. I do think the more electable of the two should win the nomination.

I've said that Hillary would do better in the key battleground states, but of course something could happen to change her popularity for the worse. Risk is not reduced by selecting here, but comparatively speaking there are perhaps very few skeletons left in her closet. The Obamas, on the other hand, have never confronted the kind of swift-boating that Rove (no he hasn't descended to hell yet, or left the political arena) have waiting in store for them.

Wearing the Vice presidential label will help insulate the Obamas from Republican attacks and fear-mongering, when they choose to run for the top slot again. Al Gore fielded far fewer negative attacks from George W. Bush than Kerry in 2004; harder it was to attack a two-term Vice President than Kerry or Dukakis.

If Hillary's attacks are any precursor, the GOP will use Rev. Wright, slumlord Rezko, and who knows who else to frame the Obamas in the most negative light imaginable, even if they have to lie and distort the facts. Just look back at the 1984 Dukakis candidacy and the more recent '04 swift-boating for a hint of what the GOP might do to denounce Obama, largely in part to alienate him from conservative white voters in the swing states.

Obama needs to convert his present popularity into elder statesman-type diplomatic and political credibility. No office short of the Vice President could be as effective a medium to hone his skills and tackle real problems using innovative solutions. Obama is a very bright man who could do more as VP than as a Senator.

Global warming is clearly an issue that could be far better managed by someone like Obama at the helm. McCain might do more to confront global warming than Bush, but that isn't saying much. Besides, McCain may be forced to subjigate his pro-environment policies to Big Business lobbies like Big Coal (mountaintop removal, mercury) and Big Oil. Still, even companies within those industries have begun to seek out guidance from the federal government regarding greenhouse gas emissions, so the they've recognized the need to make changes and set targets post-Bush.

Windfall and carbon taxes passed by a Democratic regime are the greatest fear for Big Coal and Oil. Abandoning the nation's counterproductive ethanol policy threatens Big Agra, who've reaped billions from corn subsidies. Like Big Energy, political threats to profitability motivate their lobbying efforts. Despite the greenwashing about clean coal and petroleum alternatives, the real environmental consequences only matter as they pertain to the potential economic and financial impacts of non-compliance. The time for voluntary compliance has come and gone with no one in the White House offering any leadership.

Wrapping it up

The idea of an Obama alliance with Hillary is attractive despite the bitter rhetoric flowing between the two at the moment. Clearly the threat is the damage the squabbling could do to the cohesion of the party. Hillary going negative may not sway many people to her side out of anything but fear of a black man, which is basically the same tactic McCain might use against him.

As I've said, McCain could shut down some of the race-based attacks which may have helped Clinton gain an edge over Obama. McCain has already chastized at least one anti-Obama 527 group for the way they characterized the Democratic candidate.

As much as I'd like to think that the election transcends race, it doesn't and won't. Perhaps we have advanced to the point we can transcend a candidate's sex in our choice of Presidents. That would be a considerable achievement in itself and greatly improve the likelihood of an Obama Presidency in 2016.


Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home