And so it’s back to Yankeeland, and the ongoing quest to see which millionaire attorney gets to be the Democrats’ standard-bearer in November. Which, as things stand, looks like being Irish-American candidate Barack O’Bama, who is anxious to emulate the success of fellow Offaly man Brian Cowen.
But isn’t it amazing the easy ride O’Bama has been getting in the media? Contrast this with, for example, the extraordinary level of misogyny implicit in much of the coverage of Hillary Clinton. Now I don’t especially like Hillary – I don’t have much time for her at all – but even I am surprised by the tenor of many of the debates.
Anchor: Senator Clinton, why does everyone hate you?
Clinton: You know, Jim, that hurts my feelings. And I’d really rather talk about policy.
Anchor: Thank you for that hysterical female response. Senator O’Bama, are you sure you’re comfortable? Would you like another cushion?
O’Bama: When the roots are strong, there will be growth.
I think I’m uncomfortable with the worship of O’Bama because it reminds me so much of the cult of Blair back in the day, and the current feting of Rankin’ Dave Cameron. There’s the neophiliac element in that Clinton is seen to represent old Washington, while O’Bama is new new new! Also, O’Bama has only been in DC four years, unlike, say, John Kerry, who has been in the Senate for decades and has left behind him all sorts of hostages to fortune. This means O’Bama can take on the qualities of a blank slate, and people can project their hopes onto him, on the flimsiest of grounds. Not least because of his habit of speaking in vacuous Bonoisms.
It’s true, of course, that Clinton personifies the old Democratic establishment. But it’s a major error to conclude from that that O’Bama is an outsider leading an insurgency against the establishment. In the same way, O’Bama supporters cite the war and racism as their main concerns. Yet O’Bama has been spotty on the war – his big idea seems to be getting troops out of Iraq and sending them into Afghanistan, and possibly Iran – while he’s said as little on race as he can get away with.
It helps, of course, that O’Bama’s family background – that part of it that isn’t Irish – is not African-American but African. Our friend doesn’t have a ghetto background, and the accompanying anger that tends to scare suburban whites. He isn’t entitled to forty acres and a mule. His general demeanour, apart from the odd Dr King rhetorical flourish, doesn’t partake much of classical American negritude. It isn’t as if Democrats in Vermont or Oregon were voting for Mr T.
But there’s a point that was made very well by WorldbyStorm a little while back, apropos of the West Virginia primary, when the hillbillies conspicuously failed to fall for our friend’s charm. Which is that, while O’Bama has an admirable ability to appeal to the black electorate, and he’s energised a constituency of well-heeled trendies, he continues to have a problem dealing with the white working class. I’m not sure that this can be simply put down to racism, although racism there surely is. What hurts the candidate more, in places like Pennsylvania or West Virginia, is the impression that he feels contempt for this layer. Sounding off about bitter folks clinging to guns and God doesn’t help, and that will surely come back to haunt him in November.
It certainly doesn’t help that the people who O’Bama seems to be failing to connect with are the portion of the Dems’ base most likely to switch to a Republican candidate, especially one with a gift for folksy populism, while the black community will vote Democrat no matter what. The latest spin is that O’Bama’s standing with the proletariat will be boosted by the endorsement of millionaire attorney John Edwards. Hmm…
Again, this isn’t to say there isn’t an issue of racial bias. One of the things that struck me from Mitt Romney’s run at the Republican nomination was the polling that suggested 30% or thereabouts of the American electorate would refuse to vote for a Mormon candidate. Back in the 1960s, there would have been similar numbers refusing to vote for a Catholic or Jewish candidate. Just because people are savvy enough not to own up to being prejudiced, that doesn’t mean they aren’t.
And, of course, there is only one winner in this situation. I suspect that O’Bama is actually less electable than Clinton, but either one of them will have a hard time getting past McCain. Remember, too, that a mere couple of months back, a parrot on a stick could have beaten McCain. Yet again, it really does beggar belief how useless the Democrats are.