Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The current status of the Democratic primaries and the general election

Here's where I think we are right now.

Obama's increase in Pennsylvania has apparently been blunted, but not reversed. See CNN Politics and from TPM, More PA Polls. TPM also posted this analysis from TPM reader YA which may describe the current state of play in Pennsylvania - that it shows no real change from a week ago. Here is why I don't think that matters much. The Democratic primary contest for the Presidential nominee is winding down fast. The end of the contest will come suddenly -and for many shockingly. [I don't know if the political media is too dense to recognize this, or if they don't dare point the the rapidly nearing end because that would eliminate the apparently important conflict that they are reporting to attract more readers/viewers. Nothing stops both from being true, of course.]

Let's look at the list of remaining primaries and caucuses.
April03ThurDistrict of ColombiaDemCauc38---
-05SatVirgin Islands---RepOther06
-06TuesNorth CarolinaDemPrim134RepPrim69

13TuesWest VirginiaDemPrim39---

-03TuesSouth DakotaDemPrim23RepPrim27
-07SatPuerto RicoDemCauc56---

[full list is found here.]

The Pennsylvania Primary is next Tuesday, and it's not going to change the lead Obama has nationally over Clinton, so Hillary is running to change the votes of the superdelegates. That's now extremely unlikely. Unless there is a clear crisis between now and late June that clearly marks Obama as unable to win the general election, the superdelegates are not going to overturn the delegate decisions made by Democrats in the primaries and caucuses.

Why won't the superdelegates overturn the primary/caucus results? Doing that would alienate so many Democratic voters that McCain would have an easy walk to the White House. The function of the superdelegates is to place the position of the Democratic Party as top priority, something that cannot be accomplished by throwing the Presidential Election to the Republicans. Losing the general election would be very bad for the party. The Democratic superdelegates are political professionals. They know what is happening and they are not going to throw the election, no matter how much the media and Hillary supporters want to create the impression they might. It's that simple.

Barring a catastrophic disaster by or to Obama, the Democratic nomination race is over. That's why we are seeing the shift into the general election with the ad describing McCain as out of touch and linking him to Bush and the DNC lawsuit against McCain over his abuse of the public financing system.

I'll admit that I never thought the Democratic primaries would run from January into April, and the uncertainty at this late date is unsettling to say the least. But here in Texas it has galvanized Democratic voters like I have never before seen on the Democratic side. (The Republicans here have been galvanized since Goldwater, with a short period of confusion after the Watergate crisis.) I give it through May 20th at the latest, and then Hillary is going to decide to drop out and will hug Obama and promise her full support in his race for the Presidency.

Following about a week or two of confusion among Hillary supporters, which will be filled with Democrats and Democratic ads attacking McCain and exhorting all Democrats to recognize who their real enemy is, the party will turn full bore on McCain. Disappointment over Hillary's loss of the nomination is not going to hide who the real opponent tis election.

The Democratic primaries have created a long period of excitement and hope, and this long period of excitement is going to be focused on McCain. The Republican 527 groups like Freedom's Watch are not getting the needed donations to counter the expected attacks on McCain. McCain will wither in the face of the excitement like a daisy in a firestorm.

The firestorm will be fueled by Iraq, the Recession, Bush's lawlessness in office (especially his recent admission of approving torture and the White House staff directing how individual prisoners are tortured) and the general dissatisfaction of the American voting public with Republican misrule. Take all of this and add the excitement, energy and political direction that Democrats have developed during this primary season, and I think this is going to be a very good election for Democrats.

With some luck, Progressives are going to send a number of new members to Congress also. This business of having an extreme right-wing corporatist party and a mild right-wing corporatist party is going to fade quickly. This nation has real problems that can only be dealt with by some rather radical changes in governance, and the Republicans, with the assistance of the Blue Dog Democrats have been supporting the entrenched powers that will lose a lot when those changes are made. The health care crisis is the most obvious example of the current crises. (See this video about Charlie Rose's interview with T. R. Reid regarding the Frontline documentary "Sick around the world".)

The U.S. Constitution was designed, largely by Southerners, to allow a significant minority to block radical legislation - like outlawing slavery - unless there is an overwhelming majority in favor of the change*. That was a key part of the set of compromises that allowed the colonies to join in an effective central government after the problems created by the Articles of Confederation. The New Deal was the result of such an overwhelming majority of Americans in favor of radical changes in how America was governed. So was the period during the late Civil Rights Movement when LBJ passed the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights legislation.

We are, I think, entering another such time when there is an overwhelming majority ready for big changes in American governance. John McCain and his supporters see this time of change coming towards us and McCain is the man who intends, as Bill Buckley once colorfully described his own conservatism, to stand in the way of history and cry "Halt!"

I predict that McCain and what he stands for is about to become political road kill. That's what this general election, just now beginning, is all about.

* When that politically overwhelming American majority elected Lincoln President and appeared about to outlaw slavery in spite of the difficulties the structure of the Constitution placed in their way, the Southern states attempted to succeed from the Union and the South Carolinians fired on Fort Sumpter, starting the Civil War.

Radical change can elicit radical reaction. Some Republicans are going to be tempted.

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