Sunday, March 23, 2008

Democrats Stuck in Muck of Race, Gender, and Hatred

I think Michael Goodwin raises some interesting points in his essay on the Democratic nomination, especially how the party's mired in the nasty politics of racial grievance and America-bashing.

But he probably misses some key issues of concern: For all the outrage, Obama's
getting a pass from the left-wing Democratic establishment already inclined toward the Illinois Senator, and with presssure mounting on the superdelegates to get behind the Obama movement, we could indeed see much of the divisive radicalism of race, gender, and anti-Americanism finding a home in the Oval Office.


Despite their frantic efforts to one-up each other on issues large and small, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could soon find themselves sharing the same unhappy burden: the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Unless one of them can find the courage and the sense to forcefully denounce the black pastor, Clinton and Obama both could end up watching John McCain get elected President.

Midway through the second week of the Wright fiasco, and five days after Obama tried to cool the boiling issue with an important speech on race, it is increasingly clear we are witnessing a Democratic train wreck. For months, the collision has been unfolding in slow motion as the closely fought campaign worked its way across the country and the chances for a clear winner slipped away one state at a time.

Suddenly, the wreck is happening at full speed. The dream team is looking like a nightmare.

Race was always a touchy subject, but not the dominant one, at least on the surface. Now there is no other issue.

With only 10 contests left, the campaign is turning on Wright's outlandish anti-American statements and Obama's tepid reaction to them. Obama seems flummoxed by the complexities of the racial polarization he promised to heal and the party is being divided in a way that could sink him. He's even making things worse for himself as his silver tongue has gotten tied in knots.

Polls in Pennsylvania and nationally show that Obama's otherwise-thoughtful speech last week failed to solve the political problem Wright created. Whites are shifting to Clinton or, in hypothetical general election matchups, to McCain.

For those voters, Wright is a clear yes or no question. Trying to split the difference, however amiably, as Obama did by rejecting Wright's most inflammatory comments while also sympathetically explaining them and equating them to white frustrations, created a muddle that has reinforced doubts about Obama's convictions and values.
The fact is, while facing a backlash, Obama's not lost that much ground to Clinton in public opinion, and he's so far steaming along toward victory at the convention.

As for the general election, Goodwin notes:

You can't be a President if you won't stand up to an anti-American bigot. More to the point, you can't become President by running against the country or having people around you who hate it.
On principle he's right. But politically, with all the other issues going on this year - the economy, health care, and so forth - it's going to take a good number of disgusted independent voters to swing over to the GOP side.

We'll need to see how public opinion trends develop before we fully discount the possiblity of an Obama victory in November.