April 23, 2008
What’s a super-delegate to do?
1. Pay attention to Pennsylvania
2. Just say No to a repeat of 1972
Democrats should worry that 1972 is going to happen all over again.
That was the year when Pat Caddell was the strategist and pollster for Senator George McGovern, the South Dakota war hero who wanted to end the Vietnam War.
Pat Caddell sold campaign manager Gary Hart on a fantasy—that they could put together a new coalition to defeat a very weird man named President Richard Nixon. The Pat Caddell fantasy was that young people, racial minorities and newly politicized women would join with union men to defeat an incumbent Republican who was tough on Communism, tough on crime, and tough on social discord. The Pat Caddell fantasy turned out to be just that.
That history should be in mind as folks consider Hillary Clinton’s 10-point victory in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. That contest was more than a win for Hillary Clinton—it was a signal that the Clinton coalition is an enduring phenomenon, and not a flavor-of-the-month. She really does connect with the Democratic base.
Democrats voting in a primary open only to registered Democrats chose a combative, class-oriented appeal based on a very forceful assertion of the federal government’s role in changing policy. This should be music to the ears of progressives everywhere.
Why? Because Democrats seem to be coming home—if only to Hillary. Republicans since Richard Nixon not only made inroads into but actually relied upon those key Democratic constituencies—older voters, white males of every age, women, Jews, and Catholics—who this week chose Clinton over Obama.
They chose Clinton notwithstanding Obama’s enormous advantage in funds and campaign competence. That doesn’t mean, though, that Clinton will be able to overcome the rules of the Democratic National Committee, which currently favor an Obama nomination.
The Cadell-like theory of the Obama candidacy has resulted in a tremendous excitement in “open” primaries. But Obama’s candidacy has failed to attract much support from the swing voters who could just swing back to the Republicans, the way they have since 1968—except when they voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.
Western New York, outside of Buffalo, voted for George Bush in 2000 and again in 2004. Western New York is full of Nixon Democrats, Reagan Democrats, Bush Democrats, and Clinton Democrats.
But given the way Pennsylvania went, Democrats here may be more likely to support McCain if they can’t have Hillary.