Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

    Election 2008: Super Tuesday? More like super let down

    Super Tuesday is way cooler than the Super Bowl: the silver trophy given to the Bowl winner is small potatoes compared to the bounty of popular support and money received by Super Tuesday’s anointed. That’s because usually Super Tuesday is a day of decision where the primary contests stop being competitive, or at least reach their climax and transition to denouement. But Super Tuesday 2008, with 21 states (including California and New York) voting, seemed more of a kickoff to a drawn out, nail biter of a campaign between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama than the beginning of the end: no one won.

    The results tell the story. Clinton managed to squeak out a slight win in delegates, carrying both New York and California, while Obama won more states.   According to the New York Times, the score is 912 delegates Clinton and 741 Obama; the number needed to secure the nomination, 2,025, is still a long way away for both candidates.
    This close a race at this stage is unprecedented since 1968, but it is not unexpected. We are emerging from one of the most divisive periods in American political history and our county’s attempt to nominate candidates reflects that. The Republican party, once united under the mastermind Karl Rove, is now fragmented: while McCain appears to now be the Republican choice, he is still missing a sizable chunk of the republican base: the far right Evangelical vote. This fragmentation has the potential to redefine the Republican Party.

    This base fracturing is also occurring on the Democrat’s side. In voting for the identity of the Democratic Party this Super Tuesday, primary voters split according to personal identity. Hillary Clinton carried more than two-thirds of the Latino and Asian vote plus a hefty majority of white women, while Barack Obama’s support was among African Americans (topping 80 percent support) and white males (60 percent). Of all the numbers used for voter analysis, these identity based indicators show the greatest margins of difference between the candidates; every other major indicator (voters’ self identified position on the political spectrum, income, etc.) was split nearly down the middle.

    Why?

    After feeling alienated from politics for 10 years: the Lewinsky trials plus the Bush years: Democrats are trying to make the system personally theirs; votes are being cast for the candidate who is closes to one’s self image, not ideology. While this “identity voting” is an important factor in all elections, numbers show it is the dominant approach in this election. The party is split because of the different candidate identities.

    But the candidates are only the tip of the identity-iceberg. The character of the movements associated with each candidate is more different than the candidates.   Obama’s supporters share raw enthusiasm and hope. Freshness and possibility are generally favored far above intricate policy discussion for Obammans and the battle scars of experience are shunned in favor of fresh charisma. In contrast, Clinton’s followers are more reserved (some would say cynical) in their approach to politics, seeing Washington as a complex knot that requires tough, deliberate effort to untie. Battle scars are points of pride and a credential for Clintonites.

    So, now after Super Tuesday, we Democrats are still trying to figure out which identity we will rally behind: the veteran or the messiah. The idea of a joint ticket, Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton, has been bouncing around the punditry as a solution to fragmentation, but in an election search for an identity, such a ticket would bring schizophrenia. We need one candidate to win, any deal or compromise would confuse our message and miss an opportunity to provide clear vision and leadership as we look to the years ahead.

    Which is why I was excited for Super Tuesday: I thought someone would win and I could join the party in rallying behind them. But instead we are in for a long ride in a race that, at this point, could go either way.

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