Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On the Eve of the PA Democratic Primary...

Here we are smack dab on the day before a major contest that could decide the contest to see who the Democratic candidate for President will be. In Pennsylvania primary voters have gotten used to being largely irrelevant in the primary nomination process. By April most presidential election cycles have all but been officially concluded. This year is obviously different. A strong victory by Clinton could possibly make her a front-runner once again. With strong support from superdelegates to make up for a shortfall in the pledge delegate count, I would hardly consider her an also-ran. Conversely, if Obama does well (either winning or getting very close), a lot of people are going to be clamoring for his coronation.

Hillary Clinton's lead (once in the double digits) has narrowed to less than five points. As in every previous state primary, it appears that Obama is an exceptionally strong finisher. This is an incredible feat, given the amount of space and time the media has been devoting to analyzing Obama's every utterance. Last week we had a big flap about the following quote about Pennsylvanians in small towns, and their frustration with the past few presidential administrations' unfulfilled promises: "And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

It's not surprising that these words got plucked completely out of context, and presented as if they were a condemnation of our state's villagers. The Clintons command a lot of loyalty from the establishment, and no one's been all that successful at getting criticism to stick to Obama. So I understand the desperation here. But when you read that quote in relation to his prevalent theme, it's quite clear that Obama was saying that he could be a voice for those folks. Of course that's incredibly frightening to both the Hillary camp and the rabid right wing. There's a certain brazen irony about the way people have been spinning this disembodied quote. Some are trying to brand Obama as an 'elitist'. Don't be surprised if the AM radio hacks try to ride this 'controversy' all the way until November.

Of course Obama is about as far from being an 'elitist' as you are going to find in Washington today. And consequently, he's not a 'socialist', or a Muslim, or a hate-monger. Still he has been called all of these things. I suppose that his opponents feel that the more shit they throw at the wall, the more that is likely to stick. The latest snippet his detractors have decided to focus on is a perversion of his feelings about George W. Bush. Obama said "You have a real choice in this election. Either Democrat would be better than John McCain. And all three of us would be better than George Bush." While this certainly reveals a troublesome predisposition to stray from negative campaigning, it definitely reveals his sense of the moment.

But instead of accepting Obama's message of optimism, Clinton has decided to twist his words into an endorsement of John McCain. There is an underlying message being communicated when Clinton calls Obama a cheerleader for his opponent- she promises a much nastier approach to winning the Presidency. The instrumental question is whether or not attack politics will be effective in the general election, or if undecided voters would prefer a message of conciliation. I know I would enjoy seeing Obama adopt a more critical tone, but I'm already in his camp. Tomorrow is going to be an indirect gauge of the comparative elements of the strategies employed by these two candidates. May the best man win.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am bitter and I blame the furries.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

They have a piss-poor lobby.

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't get into the capital wearing furr suits.

11:00 PM  

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