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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Diverging Realities, One Clear Win

The best comment I heard on television last night in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s victory speech in West Virginia was MSNBC’s Keith Olberman, who observed that the Obama and Clinton campaigns has embraced “different realities.”
In Obamaland, the nomination contest is basically over, since HRC would have to win absurdly impossible percentages of the available pledged and unpledged delegates to get a majority. The cumulative popular vote measurement (on which, of course, there is no consensus) is irrelevant even in the unlikely event that HRC catches up by June 3.
In Clintonland, all the superdelegates are still up for grabs, and both pledged delegate and popular vote totals have to include Florida and Michigan.
We’ll see a sharpening of this divergence next Tuesday night, when Obama will claim a majority of total pledged delegates, and quite possibly an overall majority, while Clinton will deny the math on grounds that Florida and Michigan must be factored in, while superdelegate announcements of support aren’t binding.
It’s now up to HRC–with or without a major push from superdelegates and/or from hungry unpaid vendors–to make these realities converge, if and when she chooses.
The one thing virtually all Democrats can agree on today is the significance of the special congressional election in Mississippi yesterday, where Democrat Travis Childers comfortably won a district that George W. Bush carried with 63% in 2004.
In their analysis of the Mississippi results for The Hill, Jackie Kucinich and Bob Cusack summed it up in a way that will make donkeys bray with joy:

The sky is falling on House Republicans and there is no sign of it letting up.
The GOP loss in Mississippi’s special election Tuesday is the strongest sign yet that the Republican Party is in shambles. And while some Republicans see a light at the end of the tunnel, that light more likely represents the Democratic train that is primed to mow down more Republicans in November.

One comment on “Diverging Realities, One Clear Win

  1. David on

    Some observations on the Childers-Davis race that don’t seem to be getting much play from the relentlessly national focus of MSM coverage:
    First, it’s not exactly true that this was a rock-ribbed Republican district. Until 1994 it was represented by that old seg Democratic lion Jamie Whitten; Roger Wicker won it in 1994 and held it since as much by the power of incumbency as by his party label. Secondly, as far as I can tell looking from Nashville, the voting patterns displayed some serious socio-political cleavages of the sort often missed by nonsouthern observers [Not you, of course, Ed!]. Davis is Mayor of Southaven, in De Soto County–the one county that he won really handily. De Soto is a booming middle-class suburb of Memphis, though of a lesser social stratum than tony easterly suburbs such as White Station or Germantown; it’s a product of white flight from Memphis [The suburb just north of the line is appropriately named Whitehaven], and as a result is racially pretty hard-edged. It’s hardly surprising, then, that Davis would have offered to grant political asylum, as it were, to the statues of Jeff Davis and Nate Forrest when Memphis was discussing removing them from a city park. But, perhaps more importantly for this election, the residents of De Soto are socio-economically poles apart from the rest of the district. The problems of the rural South–notably deindustrialization, which Childers addressed with an aggressive economic nationalism–are foreign to a population that’s basically tied to an urban economy, tends to take its prosperity for granted or as the reward for its own virtue, and tends to be much more hostile to government solutions than a rural and small-town region with a heritage of attachment to TVA. Outsiders [You know this, Ed] think southern Republicanism is just redneck racism shifted over bodily from the Democrats after passage of the VRA in 1965; but not only is the political story more complicated, but this stereotype misses the fact that modern southern Republicanism began in the suburbs [at least as soon as there *were* southern suburbs; in my native SC we were just beginning to see them in the 1960s]. Revisionist historians like Matt Lassiter and Joseph Crespino are beginning to rewrite this history. For present purposes, though, the important point is that the suburban character of the Republican base made it vulnerable to a challenge such as Childers’s–especially when coupled with the widespread unpopularity of Bush and [This is a bit of a surprise to me in this district] the Iraq War [but then it’s districts like this one that have borne the brunt of sacrifice]. Thus, while De Soto alone contains 20 percent of the district’s population [and growing], and Davis won it handily, he won virtually nowhere else.
    The bottom line? Contrary to the Tom Schallers of the world, Democrats have never stopped being competitive in the South; with the right candidate and appeal, they can beat a Republican Party that’s so tied to a complacent base, and so wedded to the old strategies of tarring local Democrats with national [and black] associations, that it has no clue about how to counter a candidate who can’t credibly be tarred with the “Pelosi Democrat” label and who talks about issues that the Republicans ignore. Of course, the Schallers can’t really be too happy with this result, since their real complaint has never been with southern Republicans, but rather with southern *Democrats.* Childers will be one more Blue Dog, and those who want to run Blue Dogs out of the party are losers here as well. But if Democrats can neutralize the cultural issues and can exploit genuine local problems as they’ve done here [though, as a student of southern economic development, I’m not happy with Childers’s approach on policy grounds]–they’re in the game.


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