Wednesday, April 23, 2008


My namesake (middle names count too, you know) famously said that “God does not play dice with the universe.” I still believe that, but I’m beginning to see evidence to the contrary.

Consider what happened last night in Pennsylvania. A 20-point victory could have given Hillary Clinton the momentum she needed to thump Obama in Indiana and all but break even in North Carolina, thereby setting her up for a possible victory in the popular vote. If that had happened, all bets would be off. By contrast, a five-point victory for Clinton would have given Barack the momentum – not to mention a hammerlock on the nomination, perhaps as soon as a fortnight from now. But that’s not what happened either. Instead, we Democrats find ourselves back where we’ve been all along – in the middle of the road, with trucks coming at us from both directions. As you surely know by now, Hillary won by ten percent … or was it nine? Actually, it was 9.4%, or 10% if you round the percentages first before you calculate the differential.

So there you have it, she wins by enough to support her claims to the nomination but not by enough to undermine his. Her people will continue to think that she deserves the victory and his will do the same. And they will all continue to disagree about which factors matter the most. In fact, they won’t even agree about whether Hillary won Pennsylvania by “double digits.” In essence, Clinton supporters and Obama supporters appear fated to agree about nothing.

If I believed in an anthropomorphic, dice-playing deity, I’d start wondering if the good Lord wasn’t a big-time McCain supporter. Clearly, McCain was the big winner in Pennsylvania, right? Well … not exactly. He was running unopposed, or so I thought. But if you look at the results, McCain received only 73% of the Republican votes, and barely half as many as Obama. Apparently, just as Clinton would have trouble receiving votes from college students, black folks, and my fellow “latte liberals,” and just as many old people and poor whites of all ages don’t care for Obama … lots of Republicans don’t think much of John McCain. So maybe the Lord isn’t a McCain guy after all. Maybe he just enjoys an uproarious political comedy from time to time.

Today, zillions of Barack supporters are becoming so furious with Clinton that they’re fit to be tied. She and her hubby have become the convenient scapegoats for the problems Barack is having closing the deal with the Archie Bunker Democrats that have heretofore been needed to keep Pennsylvania blue and Ohio in play. The Clintons are said to be thoroughly Machiavellian figures who are either trying to win now or in 2012, and thus prefer McCain to Obama. Even some of Hillary’s supporters playfully call her a “bitch,” as if that quality is part of her charm.

Well, folks, I’m no fan of the Clintons, but I have named this blog “Empathic Rationalist” for some very good reasons. And one of them is that I’m devoted to sharing with you the dictates of that voice of reason in my head, even when she whispers things that I hate to hear. So believe me when I tell you that what I’m about to acknowledge is painful.

Sure, Barack is starting to resemble Evander Holyfield in the ring with Mike Tyson. But Barack has problems that go way beyond Hillary chewing on his ear. He’s got serious difficulties connecting with the typical Rust Belt voter. And the Democrats need a pretty decent percentage of those folks if they hope to regain the White House.

Don’t kid yourself. Something changed last evening. Barack had six weeks to seal the deal in an important swing state, and a large fraction of the Democrats there are now saying that they’d choose McCain over him in the General Election. Many of the same people who gave Kerry the victory in Pennsylvania in 2004 would now choose McCain if Barack were to be nominated. Somehow, he must change their minds. In other words, for Barack to be President, he will have to significantly alter the present dynamic in places like Pittsburgh and Youngstown. How he does that remains to be seen.

Moreover, it is notable that we’re no longer hearing any more comparisons between Barack and JFK. Now, Barack is being compared to another former Democratic nominee for President. The man I have in mind is a liberal darling who, like Barack hopes to be, was nominated during the latter days of a hated war. I’m referring to that symbol of political futility -- George McGovern.

Just think about it – with each passing week, the Republicans and the DLC Democrats have been increasingly successful portraying Barack as (a) such a wimp that he couldn’t even bowl a 40, (b) such a snob that he sounds like a sociology prof from Brandeis when he discusses Middle America’s concerns, and (c) such a pinko that he won’t even wear the Stars and Stripes on his suit coat and hangs out with people who boast about bombing the Pentagon and curse America from the pulpit. It’s not a pretty portrait, and it isn’t likely to disappear from our eyes any time soon.

Personally, none of that has affected my view of Barack in the slightest. Really, it’s not much different from Swift Boating, only this time, the crap is coming from Democrats as well as Republicans. But I must regretfully admit that the past few weeks have affected my view of Barack’s electability. While I’d still marginally favor him to win against John McCain, I sure wouldn’t bet the ranch on that assessment.

The fact is, however, that we’re not yet at the stage of the General Election. Barack still has work to do in order to gain the nomination. There will be plenty of Obama fans who think the sky is falling on that score. Honestly, I don’t happen to be one of them. Barack has all but clinched the pledged delegate race and is soon about to claim the popular vote majority as well (if you exclude Michigan and Florida, where neither candidate campaigned). He has also won the clear majority of states. And he has demonstrated fundraising prowess that is impossible to match.

If, in light of all of that, the superdelegates were to seriously consider giving Hillary the victory, someone will surely remind them that they could very well drive their most loyal constituency (African-Americans) away from their Party for a long, long time. Plus, the superdelegates would take all the new voters who are suddenly expressing enthusiasm in politics and send them right back to where they came from – a state of apathy.

So while I’m not terribly confident about the General Election, I remain bullish about Barack’s chances for the nomination. God might be placing dice with the process, but the “fun” has to stop sometime, and I just don’t see it stopping with a decision to overturn the will of the majority and invite charges of “Racism, American Style.”

Make no mistake -- Obama hasn’t yet demonstrated himself to be a Profile in Courage, like JFK or MLK. But I still say that he is more like those figures than George McGovern. And at the end of August, you’ll see my Party making that point loudly and clearly. Will the Clintons join the festivities with the same kind of enthusiasm that, say, Mitt Romney now brings in support of McCain? I can’t answer that. And whoever can may indeed know the identity of our next President.

[Note – I will be out of town for the next several days and will not be able to post comments until I return.]


YoungMan said...


I'm amazed Jules and Evie didn't send you to the moyl as Adlai Albert.

Adlai is the man that you most prominently failed to mention (another son of that great state of Illinois). Failing that, Henry Wallace. He's the diminish MLK and JFK by making the comparison (maybe not JFK, he would never have become President unless his Daddy was willing to spend his fortune, in great measure earned by bootlegging Hillary's favorite quaff, Crown Royal, during Prohibition).

At least McGovern had enough courage to conduct 25 bombing raids over Nazi Germany in a B-24....something neither Adlai or Barry every did......

Makes it easier to mock his 37.

I'm ever more confident i'll be sipping vodkas along with the McCains/Liebermans and possibly Clintons on the 1st Tuesday of November.

The cult is going to kill the party again :)- Go Barry! The Inmates have made u the elocutional king of the asylum lol.


Betty C. said...

Remember when I told you I was afraid to hope? This is exactly the sort of problem(s) I was worried about...

Daniel Spiro said...


I'd rather respond to your comment directly than Youngman's. I appreciate that you and others -- including a significant portion of the black community -- were onto something that I wasn't with respect to Barack's chances. But I'm keeping the faith. While I can't guarantee victory, I can guarantee that there is something very different in the air this year than there was when McGovern or Stevenson ran for President.

Barack's licking his wounds today, but people (Youngman notwithstanding) still very much respect and admire the way he has run his campaign. Sure, the "bitter" comments were stupid, but that stupidity was comparatively mild relative to what other mere mortals have done in the course of campaigns.

Barack needs to step it up again, I'll grant you that. But just as Hillary's fans have learned not to count her out, I'm not going to count him out either. I maintain that he is the greatest political talent of the bunch, and that talent goes a long way in a country that is as at least trying to be open to Democrats and non-whites.

Finally, we're so far from the finish line in this race ... including the race for the nomination. Just stay patient and keep hopeful. There are as many opportunities for success here as failure. In that sense, it's rather like life itself.

(In a couple of hours, I'll be on a plane to Stanford -- I'll say 'hi' to it for both you and Youngman.)