Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The U.S. Democratic Primaries - Farewell to Liberal Hillary

Bloomington, Indiana is where I am at the moment, at the University of Indiana. It is best known as the home of Albert Kinsey, John Cougar Mellencamp, and the 'Hoosiers', a basketball team about whom a film was made in 1986 starring Gene Hackman as a coach and Dennis Hopper as a drunk.

Indiana is one of the two states voting tomorrow (Tuesday May 6) in the protracted and increasingly acrimonious Democratic Party primaries. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have worked these two states hard, even though they both typically vote Republican, as the long march to the Democrat nomination continues.

The striking feature at present is just how far to the right Hilary Clinton has turned in the course of this campaign. Having struggled against Obama for most core Democrat constituencies, she has over the last month increasingly pitched her campaign at what are known here as the 'Reagan Democrats' - white voters, foten older or less educated, anxious about change, deeply patriotic, and suspicious of liberal reformers.

Given that the Clinton years in the White house were viewed by most outside of the U.S. as at least notionally progressive, and that Hillary Clinton was for so long the bete noire of American conservatives, this has come as a bit of a surprise, at least to me. She appeared on the FOX News Channel's O'Reilly Factor last week, her defence of religion and guns, and her threats to get tough on China and to 'obliterate' Iran if Israel is attacked seem to be straight out of the Republican campaign book. And the favour seems to have been returned. She is getting endorsements from FOX News, The Weekly Standard and Rush Limbaugh.

This turn to the right came with the claim that Obama is a liberal 'elitist'. Given the respective upbringings of Hilary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, the Clinton White House years, and events such as Bill Clinton's 60th birthday party, where people paid $60,000+ to hang out with Bill and friends for three days and hear the Rolling Stones, this seems odd to put it mildly.

Predictions are that Barack Obama will win North Carolina and Hillary Clinton will win Indiana. If this turns out to be the case, the saga continues, and the caravans move to Kentucky, West Virginia and Oregon. The big winners out of this are, of course, the 24 hour cable news channels and, to a lesser extent, the Republican Party.

Two things strike me as weird about this. The first is that Hillary Clinton can't win the Democratic Party nomination. Or at least she can't unless the party superdelegates* overturn the popular vote and anoint Hillary to the candidacy based on concerns about Obama's 'electability'*. If that happens, the Democratic Party will split in two at the Denver convention.

The second thing is whether the Democrats are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. George W. Bush's personal approval rating is 28%, lower than that of Jimmy Carter during the American hostage capture in Iran. With so many other things running for them in this campaign, can the Democrats - who have lost seven of the last ten U.S. presidential elections - actually find a way to lose this one.

What is for sure is that when Hillary Clinton downed a whisky with a beer chaser in Pennsylvania, it seems to have washed away many of the progressive, small-l liberal credentials that both her friends and foes used to attribute to her.

* On The Daily Show, Jo Stewart asked Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee Chair, if superdelegates 'had been bitten by radioactive spiders and has powers 10,000 times those of normal voters'. On superdelegates and electability see:


Kevin Rennie said...

Hi Terry

I have cross-posted this to Voices without Votes. Welcome to the blogosphere. I have assumed that you are not an US citizen. No time to ask Ellie.

Terry Flew said...


Thanks. You are my first respondent. No, I am not a US citizen, but it is fun to be here at present.