Every time Hillary Clinton says the Democratic bosses should give her the nomination because she does so much better with less-educated, older, white, conservative working class Democratic voters, she is also saying something else. She is saying, by definition, that it does not matter that Barack Obama is doing so much better with younger, better educated, more affluent, more liberal and black Democratic voters.
But how is it possible that the portion of Democratic voters so appealing to Barack Obama doesn’t matter to Democrats in the fall? How can the Democrats win with ONLY Clinton’s base and without Obama’s base, which, by the way, IS the Democratic Party’s true base?
The answer is one we progressives know all too well, but has been downplayed during the Bush disaster and with the Democratic Congressional win in 2006: the Clinton camp and every pundit echoing this argument is assuming that the Democratic base will vote for whoever the Democrats nominate. Period. In other words, the Democrats are taking us all for granted. I know you know, but Clinton is taking it to a whole new and insulting level.
Clinton’s team and surrogates and media stenographers are assuming that no matter how they are treated or how their candidate is berated or how low Clinton sinks into dissembling and right-wing attacking, pandering and acting, all these voters will automatically reward her with their votes in the Fall: enthusiastic brand-new young voters finding their first reason to get involved; increasingly active and empowered black voters seeing a mixed-race candidate succeed and feeling a part of it; re-energized, fairly affluent old liberal hippies (my wife and I); inspired college educated progressives and relieved wealthy liberals (some of whom who may for the first time in a while see a Democrat who makes it worth voting their hopes and progressive social values over guiltily and cynically voting their Republican wallets.)
Merely the basic politcal dynamics make this assumption risky. Voters just entering or re-entering the process because of Obama’s inspiration may completely drop out again if the party bosses take the nomination from Barack and thus confirm that the process is just as crooked and distant from not only their lives and issues, but also from the very votes they went out and cast, as they had always believed. My three daughters in their early twenties and their friends confirm this conclusion strongly. African Americans would rightly perceive racism and, if I were one of them, I might not be able to bring myself to vote for a Democratic race-baiting candidate, even if it means a Republican race-baiting candidate will win.
But now I want to talk about the human side of this assumption. It assumes we have no soul; no spirit; no self-respect. It assumes we are all purely cold-hearted, rational-maximizing calculators, just like they are. It assumes we will allow ourselves to be neglected, used, duped, betrayed and even abused (in terms of effort, time, money, commitment), but come right back and support the Party because we – and here is the worst, arguably even un-American part of calculus– we have no other choice.
I for one will not do it. We have come to the point where Hillary Clinton can no longer obtain the nomination honorably, not even close. She has tried to destroy Obama, she has used race, she has played the victim, she has pandered with terrible policy proposals (nuking Iran and going deeper into debt to save two bucks fifty on a tank of gas). And none of it has worked. After all of it, she lost badly Tuesday night, even in Indiana (compared to what she needed from a state so rich in her alleged base of white, working class voters). That she is such a brilliant, focused, disciplined and appealing person makes it all so much worse for me. If she had won on those attributes, I would lead canvasses in Portland rain storms to get her elected.
I know voting for Nader or the Green candidate might elect John McCain and I will be sick over it. I know it puts Roe v. Wade at risk (three young-adult daughters, remember). I know it risks more disastrous war and robber-barron economics and environmental negligence. I know it puts my own children’s and grandchildren’s futures at risk. But I will not allow myself to be taken for granted and I will refuse to be told, in the flippin’ United States of America, that I have no choice!
Call me immature, call me naive, call me what you want. But I truly believe the future of our county will be better served by telling the Democrats, with our votes, that we would rather stand true to ourselves and lose an election than sell out yet again for another cynical, hawkish, corporate-connected, center-right candidate who will spend four to eight years throwing us a couple of symbolic bones while continuing to serve thick steaks to the same masters the Republicans serve. We need an actual progressive movement in American and we will never get one by supporting a party that tries to win by hugging just barely left of a constantly rightward hurtling Republican machine.
Or, of course, the Democrats could let Obama keep his hard-earned nomination. He is not a progressive hero by any means, but is someone new and more honest, who will bring new bodies into the movement and who we could maybe work with.
So, let's not make it a mystery. If you are an Obama supporter, write to your Democratic Representative, Senator, Governor, county party, state party and let them know in clear terms that you will not vote for Hillary Clinton in the Fall, and you might take out your punishment down the ballot, too, if there are good progressive third-party candidates worthy of your vote.