Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here's Digby on how bad things are for the Democrats

From Digby. What are the Democrats getting out of the long primary?
A huge increase in Democratic voter registration, building of strong ground operations in most states, new technologies being beta tested, lots of media coverage and battle testing for the nominee are of benefit to the nominee in the fall. Meanwhile, the Democrats stay at center stage while McCain wanders around in obscurity, failing to raise money and leaving a trail of gaffes in his wake. As long as they don't know at whom to aim their fire the Republicans can't cement their narrative. In the end, I remain convinced that we are going into an election that is so fundamentally seismic that either of them can win it, even if more closely than we might want, due to the breakthrough nature of their campaigns. The primary continuing on is not going to change that.

I don't think people realize that the democratization the internet has brought to the system is also one of the main reasons why the campaign goes on. If you think superdelegates are undemocratic, back in the bad old days (of a couple of cycles ago) big party donors pulled the strings by pulling the money when they decided that someone had no chance to win. Today, both candidacies are where they are on the basis of avid small donor supporters contributing online and that's prolonged things past the point where it would have in the past. Thousands of Clinton supporters keep sending her money-- ten million since last night, apparently. So, if you don't like the fact that the campaign continues, blame the internet. It wouldn't have happened under the old paradigm.

Who's going to win? Like most people, I expect it will be Obama, but I can see that the idea of a unity ticket might begin to look like a way for the superdelegates to settle this. I don't think this campaign is hurting him --- he's getting needed experience and learning how to counter punch. (It's also pin pointing the places where he needs to improve his campaign for the fall.) And the fact that Clinton is still winning big primaries and getting campaign contributions makes it ridiculous to expect her --- or any politician --- to quit (no matter what the NY Times editorial board says.) She has a legitimate constituency (nearly half the voters) in the party that wants her to see this through.
I agree with her.

In particular, consider what she said about the change in how Presidential elections are decided. "If you think superdelegates are undemocratic, back in the bad old days (of a couple of cycles ago) big party donors pulled the strings by pulling the money when they decided that someone had no chance to win."

That is still the way the Republican Party operates, and is allows the decisions of a few very wealthy contributors to drive the whole party. If you think the Republican Party is the party of the wealthy elite - of course it is. That's where they have gotten the money they needed to operate. They are a political party run by wealthy bankers, wealthy military contractors, and wealthy evangelistic leaders.

Without them, the Republican Party couldn't field national candidates. They wouldn't have the money. Only this time, the internet has allowed the middle class to weigh in and fund people who speak for them.

This started to be noticeable in the 2006 election, and it is a tide that has gotten much stronger. That's one reason why Obama is ahead of Clinton currently, and why either Obama or Clinton will have more money to run on than McCain will.

McCain hasn't been able to tap into the Internet for money effectively. He doesn't have the base who will contribute or the message that resonates with the mass voters, while both Obama and Clinton do. The wealthy Republican donors see this. They contribute to Republicans because it is a good investment. If it is unlikely that McCain can win in November, contributing to him is a bad investment, and the big money Republicans don't make a lot of bad investments when they can see the likelihood of big return is poor. They do "expected value" calculations very well.

The money is key to the break-through nature of the Democratic campaigns, and the Internet is the key to the money.

As a Texan I have also really appreciated the length of the primary. It hasn't been front-loaded with small New England states who eliminated the best candidates before I could weigh in. Four years ago I had caucuses for three precincts, and had five people to show up to fill four Democratic county delegate positions and four alternate positions. The excitement of the campaign brought out about 200 people this time. The Republicans for the same precincts had no one show up.

We have had Democrats take notice of the elections and register to vote, unlike the last two decades. The long primary has given us that, and many of those new registrants will be back to vote in the general election. Some are going to be organizing the get-out-the-vote operations.

That's another benefit of the long primary.

I do think it is time to start working on McCain, though. The Obama-Clinton battle should not cause us to ignore the tortoise in the race, McCain. Either Obama or Clinton will be a much, much better President than McCain, so we shouldn't let the decision of which of the two will face him interfere with pointing out his flaws.

In the meantime, we just let the rest of the national primaries happen and see who the Democratic voters want. That's what will win the general election.

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