Wednesday, April 23, 2008

After Pennsylvania - The Math - Plus Ça Change....

Well, the day after and nothing has changed. Obama's supporters and the media say that Hillary's win doesn't matter. She didn't pick up that many delegates and will lose them in North Carolina - which has many more delegates than Indiana and is owned by Obama. (38% of the registered Democrats are African American.) Hillary's forces don't deny that they will lose N.C. They just hope it will be a respectable loss.

Then, of course, there is "The Math". Some of the calculations, by supporters of both Hillary and Obama are wondrous in their complexity. After all, there is a lot to work with: Florida and Michigan - to count or not and if to count, how. Turning caucus votes into "real" votes. Even the pledged delegate votes have some wiggle room due to the multi-stage process of assigning them. Then there are the maps of electoral votes vs. primary & caucus wins. And so on and so on. The one constant amidst all of this complexity is that the method employed always ends up supporting the designer's preferred candidate. It is unlikely that any of them will impress a supporter of the opposite candidate, although the designers hope their models will influence the Super Delegates (SDs).

Will the SDs be impressed by these models? I doubt it. I've discussed my analysis of their decision making earlier, but will repeat and add a bit here.

The SDs want the Democrats to win in November. But they have a couple of perhaps insurmountable obstacles.

1. Supporters of one candidate who say they won't vote for the other candidate.
I think these percentages are overstated and represent the gulf that has opened up between the two camps in the past several months. I blame Obama's supporters for this gulf, but, then, I am a Hillary supporter. But, when the proverbial push comes to the proverbial shove, most will vote for the Democrat. There are, however, and unfortunately, a couple of exceptions.

Hillary's voters:
Certainly, some of Hillary's supporters will either sit on their hands next November or vote for McCain. I think this is most likely to happen in Florida if its votes are not counted in full, as voted. Who will switch from Hillary to McCain rather than to Obama? Most likely the older voters. They may not approve of many of McCain's ideas, but I suspect that given a choice between a man of their generation, a war hero and the guy (Obama) they think stole the nomination from Hillary by disenfranchising them, they will go for McCain and probably in large enough numbers (it doesn't take many in Florida) to swing the state to the Republicans.
Obama's voters:
Yes, some of the white elitists will sit on their hands, write in a name, or even vote for McCain. They have done this before (voting against their political interests) to disastrous effect going back to Nixon vs. Humphrey. But they are not the main problem the SDs must consider.

The main problem is the African American vote. It has gone 90% for Obama. Barring some major misstep on his part, it will take very little in the way of "math" to make an SD vote for Hillary appear to be racist. SDs are not dumb. They know this. For the Democratic Party to deprive an African American candidate of the nomination when even some, not to say most, of the numbers favor him will likely do to the Party a variation of what LBJ's Civil Rights movement did to the Party. LBJ knew he was turning over the South to the Republicans. The SDs may rightly believe that a majority of AAs will not vote for McCain. But they will also, rightly I think, assume that enough AAs will sit home to deprive Hillary of a win in November.

There are two ways to solve the Florida problem.
The first, of course, is to count Florida but not Michigan. (Michigan's voters might get just as mad, but most will admit that since Obama's name was not on the ballot, it wouldn't be fair to give the state to Hillary. True, it is Obama who refused to accept a revote, but relatively few of the Democratic voters, in my estimation, realize that.)

The second is for Hillary to drop out. And that is why there is such a clamor for her to do just that. There is simply no way to finesse the African American vote. Her voters will be disappointed if she drops out, but they will be furious if they think that Obama stole the nomination (by pressure on the SDs or some version of "The Math".)

Do I want Hillary to fight until the end? Yes. Do I think that Obama can win in November under any circumstance? No. Not because he is AA (think Colin Powell), but because he is so clearly unprepared for the job compared to McCain. However, I also think the odds are against Hillary's winning in November (the misogyny her campaign has exposed is greater than anything we could have anticipated.). Not so great that she couldn't pull out a victory, but it would be a victory that would leave an uncomfortably large segment of the Democratic Party unwilling to give her the support she would need as President.

I hope I am wrong, but I fear that we have backed ourselves into a corner from which there is no conceivable good way out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Poor Obama. He's going to have to go negative now?

I suppose it was to be expected. Obama lost in Pennsylvania because of Hillary's negative attacks. So now, the poor guy, in spite of all of his better instincts, is going to have to go negative?

This is what? The 100th time we've heard this. When, exactly, has he not been negative? I seem to recall his starting out the campaign by saying she was too old. Well, OK, he didn't exactly say she was too old. He just said, my paraphrase, that she was stuck in the old, adversary politics of the 60s. And it's pretty much gone downhill from there.

But there is a bigger issue here: the definition of "negative". As applied to Hillary, it appears to mean any attack of any kind against Obama: experience, positions, relationships with questionable people, public statements. None of these are acceptable targets.

Once upon a time, "negative" meant untruthful, distorted, grossly unfair. Now, at least for Hillary, it means any attempt to draw a distinction between her qualifications and his.

Similarly, "attack" is now a completely negative word. What, pray tell, should one call an attempt to draw distinctions between oneself and one's opponent?

Is Obama a Coward?

Well, let's see.

1. He (or his many, many surrogates) have been asking Hillary to quit since, when? March? In spite of the fact that he has had, according to "everybody that matters" an insurmountable lead by all possible criteria. You would think that he would appreciate the opportunity to expand his lead, right? Well, no. Perhaps because he's been afraid that his lead would shrink rather than grow?

2. He nixed revotes in Florida and Michigan. Again, they offered him an opportunity to expand his lead. Hillary, who most definitely won Florida and arguably won Michigan, has supported revotes in both states even knowing that she would be risking losing them because, of course, Obama was unstoppable.

3. He cancelled the pre-primary debate in North Carolina. Could it be because he doesn't do very well in debates? And he was worse than usual in the Pennsylvania debate? (it doesn't matter whether the questions were proper or not. None of them should have been a surprise, and Jon Stewart's clips of Obama from that debate showed that he couldn't frame a decent answer to either the gotcha questions or some of the policy questions.)

So, yea, I'd say that Obama is a coward.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Another Reason for Hillary to Stay in the Race

While working on the prior post about why Obama's supporters want Hillary to quit, it occurred to me that there is a reason, other than hoping she will eventually get the nomination, that Hillary should stay in.

If Hillary stays in until the end, and the nomination gets decided by Super Delegates, either her supporters or Obama's will feel cheated. This is GOOD.

I know that is counter-intuitive, but only if one focuses solely on this election. If, however, one looks at the system from a longer-term perspective, this outcome should be beneficial if it leads to a revised and more rational primary system.

What should be the purpose of a primary system? To nominate the person who best represents the will of the Party's members. The current system does not accomplish this and is little better than the smoke-filled room.

The problems with the current primary system are well known.
1. Iowa and New Hampshire as gate-keepers
With the exception of the people who live in these two states, everybody realizes that their gate-keeper function is anti-democratic and damaging. Only candidates with relatively deep pockets can survive a loss in these two states especially because the media consider the outcomes to be definitive, in every sense of the word.

2. Caucuses vs. primaries
The sheer idiocy of having caucuses can be seen in Texas this year where it appears that Obama may win more delegates (due to the caucuses) than Hillary in spite of her trouncing him in the popular vote.

There is simply nothing democratic about a caucus. Turnout is low compared to that in a primary. Only people with spare time on their hands can attend. Peer pressure can easily overwhelm personal wishes when people must publicly state their preferences.

3. The primary season
Although primaries & caucuses are scheduled from Jan. - June, everybody seems to want and expect the nominee to be chosen by March. This is absurd. It means that both parties have set things up so that many, if not most, of the states have no say at all in who becomes the nominee because they vote too late. This is the reason so many states, including Florida and Michigan, moved their primaries up this year.

It is unfair in the extreme to create a system that disenfranchises many, if not most, of a Party's members.

All of these problems have been apparent for years, but nobody does anything to fix them. The Party bigwigs seem content to have a few states determine the nominee - no matter how badly the nominee may fare in the general election.

But if this year's Democratic nominee is chosen by Super Delegates, there will be enormous pressure on the DNC to finally fix the system. (Anglachel has a proposal worth serious attention by the DNC. )

I know that many will argue that I am right, but this is the wrong time. Winning the GE is too important this year. Unfortunately, it is precisely because this election is so important to Democrats (and, really, be honest, what election in the history of the country has not been important?) that we must ride it out to the end.

The DNC must change the system and the only way to make them change the system is to have a nominee (be it Hillary or Obama) who is not viewed as the legitimate winner by a large number of Democrats. If Hillary quits, this won't happen. If she stays in, it's pretty much inevitable.

The Real Reason They Want Her To Quit

After reading yet another hyperbolic demand that Hillary withdraw from the race before she destroys Obama, The Democratic Party, the Unites States of America and Western Civilization, I decided to sit down and work through my interpretation of these calls (which can be summarized as "She Can't Win and He Will Be The Nominee No Matter What She Does So She Should Quit"):

Their Reasons (my interpretation)
1. It will destroy Obama.
I don't see how. They assure us that he is the nominee already in all but name.

2. It hurts Obama's chances against McCain because Obama can't campaign against McCain.
Well, if Obama is not free to campaign against McCain (because Obama is not yet the nominee), McCain by that same token is not free to campaign against Obama because, of course, Obama is not yet the nominee. So, no advantage to either side. There is, however, nothing about the current situation to prevent Obama from campaigning against McCain (or vice versa). He certainly has enough money.

3. Hillary's attacks will hurt Obama in the Fall.
If they haven't been damaging enough to keep him from being the presumptive nominee, why should they hurt him against McCain? And it is hard to believe that, at this stage, she could say anything that McCain doesn't already know or can't find out on his own. I vaguely remember a Republican by the name of George H. W. Bush deriding his opponent Reagan's economic plan as "voodoo economics" in 1980. Now, who won the Republican nomination and the election? Hmmm, let me think, gee whiz, it was Reagan.

4. It is distracting Obama from his need to focus on McCain.
What's distracting? He is the presumptive nominee. Nothing she does can change that, so why are they worried? He knows this to be true, so he doesn't have to spend any of his valuable time on Hillary. He can focus on McCain if that is what he should do.

The REAL reason: Fear of Losing
All of the above reasons and their variations are rationalizations and, deep down, their supporters know this. You see: Obama has only two ways to win (unless Hillary really blows it in the remaining primaries): Hillary can drop out or he can get more Super Delegates than she can. And that is the problem. If Hillary does not drop out and if, this is key, she beats him soundly in most of the remaining primaries, his claim to the nomination will be weakened.

For the DNC:
If Hillary does not drop out, and Obama can't reach the magic number of delegates, the DNC has two problems it must face:
1. Florida and Michigan
2. Super Delegates choosing the nominee.
The DNC, of course, does not want to deal with either.

For Obama and his supporters:
Consider a worst-case scenario: Hillary wins most of the remaining primaries & soundly trounces him. Perhaps she comes out slightly ahead in the popular vote while significantly narrowing his lead in pledged delegates. NOTE: I am not predicting this will happen or even that it is likely. I'm simply posing a worst-case scenario for Obama as an explanation for the demand that Hillary withdraw.

Obama will then have to convince the Super Delegates that his wins mean more than Hillary's wins. There are lots of ways to do this. The one Obama's supporters use most often (in addition to pledged delegates & the popular vote) is that he has won more states. Hillary's supporters argue that she has won more of the larger & more important states.

On The Hillary 1000 (Mar. 8, 2008), Donna Darko argues that, based on turnout, results in caucus states should mean less than results in primary states.

Related to this argument by Darko are the arguments that winning a majority of the states that held primaries is more indicative of potential success in the Fall than winning a majority of the states that held caucuses.

The New Editor pointed out that (prior to the Pennsylvania primary) most of Obama's popular vote margin can be attributed to Cook County in Illinois.

Sean Wilentz points out that the results would be different if the Democratic Party used a winner-take-all system instead of the current system.

The Reclusive Leftist has maps comparing Obama's wins to electoral results in 1996 (the last time Democrats won the WH).

I am not suggesting that the Democratic Party change the rules ex post facto. I am simply arguing that, under the above stated circumstances, the Super Delegates who have not yet committed themselves will need some criteria other than the primary results to determine which candidate to support, and that looking at the results of the primary season in different ways may be one method they will use.

Obama and his supporters do not want to be in this position in June. The only ways they can avoid this scenario are for Hillary to fail miserably between now and June or for her to drop out.

The real reason they want her to quit? In one word: FEAR.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Obama's Grandmother

Yes, the story is old, and yes, the MSM and Obamasphere have declared that he did not throw his grandmother under the bus, but Uppity's April 8, 2008 post reminded me that I've not forgotten what he said and that, contrary to his many apologists, it bothers me more every time I hear it.

If this had been an off-the-cuff remark during a conversation about racism with friends or colleagues, I could excuse it. We all draw from past experiences and, quite often, exaggerate or massage the facts to bolster the position we are taking.

But the speech in which Obama outed his white grandmother as an unconscious bigot has been widely touted as the most important and brilliant speech in modern political history. We are told that Obama wrote it all himself, spent hours writing it, even stayed up all night. So we must assume that he chose this anecdote (a bit revised from the story in his sort of, semi-accurate memoir) with care.

To make the point that he could not abandon his preacher, he chose to tarnish the image of the woman who raised him. Later, in justifying or explaining the anecdote, he described her as a "typical white woman".

He had to have known that the speech and his comments would be widely broadcast and discussed. He should have known, or guessed, that it might be used by Republicans in ads against him. But he, nevertheless, chose to use his grandmother to help him out from under the political mess he had gotten himself into.

It seems to me to be fair to ask if this is how a grandson expresses his affection, gratitutde, or love for his grandmother? What kind of person would tell this story, true or not, in the most public of forums about his grandmother? What kind of grandson would explain away his grandmother as a "typical white woman"? I'm not a psychologist but I can't help but feel that maybe Obama doesn't exactly love his grandmother, that maybe he knew it would hurt her to be used this way and that's exactly what he wanted to happen.

At the very least, it suggests an enormous distance between him and his grandmother, and a lack of compunction about using her faults to enhance his reputation.

I know I'm not expressing this very well. All I know is that each time something causes me to remember his statements about his grandmother, I sense deep inside me that something is very, very wrong.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Obama, Super Delegates and Affirmative Action*

I've thought a long time about whether or not to post this. I am a Hillary supporter. I do not believe that I am a racist. But I could be deluding myself.

Nevertheless, here goes.

The uncommitted Super Delegates have a real problem that is not being addressed amidst all the arguments about pledged delegates, caucuses, primaries, Florida, Michigan, etc. It is very simple. They will decide who the Democratic nominee will be. Their votes will be public. If Hillary wins because of Super Delegate votes, there will be an unholy chorus of objections from the MSM and the liberal blogosphere. The Supers will inevitably be accused of being racists and/or being bought off or threatened by the Clintons (although Obama's contributions to the campaigns of Supers far exceed that of Hillary Clinton). Hillary's campaign against McCain would be blighted.

But what if the Supers vote for Obama? Will they be accused of having being bought off? Of being sexist or misogynists? No. Hillary's supporters will be furious, but we lack the media megaphone that Obama has. Our objections will be treated as a footnote, as irrelvant. We will be patted on the head and told to "get over it". Obama's campaign will not be dogged by charges of illegitimacy because he owns the MSM and the A-List blogosphere.

So, it won't come down to whether the Supers believe Obama has a better chance of beating McCain than Hillary. Some of them may vote for him believing in their hearts that he will lose but concluding that losing the GE will be less painful than being individually targeted as racists. (Can you imagine the pressure if, in the worst of all possible worlds, it comes down to the vote of a single Super Delegate?)

Perhaps this is the elephant in the closet, the reason so many pundits are so sure that Obama will be the Democratic nominee. They know the Democratic leadership (Obama, Pelosi, Brazile, etc.) have made this calculation, too. They have two choices: nominate a woman and be accused of racism, and quite possibly lose the African American vote. Or nominate Obama and pray that he can beat McCain. Losing would hurt, but they would not bear the responsiblity.

I'm pretty sure Obama has made this calculation, too. In short, Barack Obama may turn out to be our first Affirmative Action Democratic candidate for President - and, possibly, our first Affirmative Action President.

*UPDATE: I'm using the Conservative definition here: hiring an unqualified or under-qualified person solely because of that person's gender, ethnicity, race or religion.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Who does the DNC represent?

I'm really confused about these primaries which started in January and are scheduled to end in June.

Howard Dean and Donna Brazile and Nancy Pelosi and the media and the Kossacks & family all insist that the campaign has to stop today for the good of the party.

Now, let's take the media first. They wanted it to be over after the Iowa caucuses. Why? What were they planning to talk about for the 8 months until the conventon? As I've posted before, the networks have practically stopped covering the conventions because they are just free advertising for the parties. This year, a convention might be worth paying attention to. But the media aren't interested. Weird.

But back to the DNC. So they made some rules about when primaries could be held, and the primary purpose of the rules, as far as I can tell, was to keep Iowa and New Hampshire at the head of the pack. Florida and Michigan, primarily because of Republicans, moved their primaries up in defiance of "The Rules".

Ignoring the question about the rules and credentials, etc., what Florida and Michigan were trying to do was to be relevant because, as current DNC commentary goes, the states at the back end of the primary schedule are not supposed to count.

Democrats across the country (and Republicans, too, if McCain had not emerged as the leader) are thus in a no-win situation. If they move their primary dates up front, their votes won't be counted because of "The Rules". If they leave them at the back of the schedule, their votes won't count either: because the nominee will have already been chosen (McCain) or because the Party wants the winner to be selected before the primary season is halfway finished.

This is a classic Catch-22 of course. So it makes me wonder just whom the DNC represents, because it doesn't seem to represent or much care about the preferences of ordinary voting Democrats. Why then even bother with an expensive primary season? The DNC should simply get together in January of the election year and choose the candidate, just like back in those old smoke-filled room days. It is cruel and unusual punishment to, with one hand, give Democrats across the country the right to vote for the candidate of their choice and, with the other hand, take it away because it is divisive.

One last thought: if it were Obama vs. Edwards, would there be all this yak about how Edwards should get out for the good of the Party?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Obama's Whiners: Neglecting the Obvious

Amidst all the hand-wringing by Obama's supporters about Hillary's staying in the campaign and hurting the Democratic Party, one sometimes forgets to notice the obvious.

With 10 states left to vote, Obama has the chance to increase his lead in both delegates and votes and, thus, make his claim to the nomination even stronger.

In short, this is a major opportunity for Obama to clinch the nomination. So why all the storm und drang?

The answer's kind of obvious, isn't it?