Ditch the Demographic Debate

5/7/2008 5:00:22 PM

Tags: Election 2008, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, primaries, race

Fox calls ObamaThe buzzer hit 7:30, the networks called North Carolina for Barack Obama, and the racial rhapsodizing began. 

FOX predictably buzzed about Obama’s weaker showing among whites, compared to Hillary Clinton’s, and his windfall backing from blacks. Not-so-subliminal message on repeat: Can this guy really win whites?  

Over at CNN, demographic hashing similarly swirled. Thanks, then, to Jeffrey Toobin for pointing out the obvious: Obama couldn’t have won North Carolina without white support (some 36 percent, according to exit polls). Then he offered a crucial reminder that seems to have vanished amidst the Wright wrangling: That’s how Democrats win in the South, with a slice of white voters and the bulk of black ones.  

Forget the hand-wringing over whether half of Hillary voters will abandon the Democrats if their gal isn’t topping the ticket. (Those sentiments, gauged as they are in the heat of primary battles, are next to meaningless.) After eight years of Bush, that many of those Democrats aren’t going to vote for a Republican out of spite, let alone one who wants to perpetuate war in Iraq, roll back abortion rights, and take the court farther to the edge of right than it already is. The question is: Will those issues be pressing enough to convince black voters to go to the polls after watching the party they’ve been unceasingly loyal to snatch away the opportunity for the first African American to become president.  

Here’s Michael C. Dawson, political science professor at the University of Chicago, over at the Root

Should that happen, the Democratic Party will face the Herculean task of trying to mobilize its most loyal constituency—black voters—in the face of deep and widespread black bitterness and active campaigns in the black community encouraging black voters to defect or abstain. You can already hear the angry comparisons. Just like in 2000, the protests will go, an election will have been "stolen." But this time from within the party! Malcolm X's quote about how the rules are changed when blacks start to succeed will also, I bet, be prominently displayed.  

And here’s a piece from McClatchy last week: 

African-Americans have been the Democratic Party's most reliable bloc, giving about 90 percent of their votes to former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in the last two presidential elections.

In a close election this year, an African-American exodus from the voting booth could be costly to Democrats, particularly in the South, where blacks are a large proportion of the electorate.

If Obama isn't the nominee, "there would be a significant number of African-Americans who would stay home. They're not voting for (presumptive Republican nominee) John McCain," predicted David Bositis, a senior analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which researches black voting trends.

Now that North Carolina and Indiana are over, we’ll move quickly to West Virginia and Kentucky, where Clinton promises to soldier on and rack up white-bolstered, lopsided victories. It’s likely that, despite the predominating wisdom that the nomination race is nigh over, we’ll be subjected to more demographic splicing. It’s time to simply acknowledge that both candidates have their demographic battles and bulwarks, and to move onto wrapping things up by nominating the person who’d be the better president.



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