Who Is Picking the Democratic Nominee?

I’ve already commented on one weak argument from the pro-Clinton blog, Talk Left, yesterday. There is yet anther related argument posted there. Jeralyn, like many other Clinton supporters, tries to make a case that it is bad that so many independents are supporting Obama. She quotes The Washington Times:

[recent] polls showed Mr. Obama was leading among independents by double digits in Texas and Ohio, the fastest-growing voting bloc in the electorate. Independents made up 22 percent of the vote in the 22 contested Democratic primaries held thus far, and Mr. Obama has won them by a margin of 64 percent to 33 percent, according to a tabulation conducted by the Associated Press.

This looks like a good thing for Democrats. After years as a minority party, Obama is bringing in large numbers of independents to vote for him. Jeralyn doesn’t see it this way and writes:

Who’s really picking our Democratic nominee? If it’s the Democratic youth or African American voters, I’m okay with that. That’s fair. If it’s Republicans, I’m not. We’ll get trounced in November. Without reliable stats to show Obama’s support is from those who will for the Democrat in November, I’d say the best way to ensure Republicans stay out of our race and don’t steal another election from us is for Dems to vote for Hillary to be the nominee.

I guess it depends upon what the definition of what a Democrat is. If by Democrats we are speaking of only those people who voted Democratic when the Democrats were losing most elections, then Obama is being picked partially by others. Even that is somewhat misleading because besides receiving a large majority of independent votes, Obama receives a substantial number of votes from long time Democrats. A large majority of Democrats tell pollsters that they would find Obama to be an acceptable candidate regardless of their first choice.

If by Democrat we mean people who will vote Democratic in November if there is the right nominee, then Obama is being picked by Democrats as a consequence of Obama bringing more people into the party. This is the only way that Democrats can win national elections. Democrats who have been Democrats for years represent a minority of the electorate. Democrats won in 2006 due to the support of independents, and they must keep that support if they are to continue to win. If the independents stay home or vote Republican in 2008, then the Republicans will win.

People who vote for a candidate in a primary typically also return to vote for the candidate in November. While there might be a few Republican trouble makers, most of the independents voting for Obama are voting for him because he is the candidate they prefer, regardless of party. There also are some Republicans who are voting for Clinton, knowing that she will be the weaker candidate.

Numerous polls verify my take on the situation. In both national polls and multiple state polls Obama beats McCain but McCain beats Clinton. Many independents will vote for Obama but not for Clinton.

If the goal is winning in November, this makes it a no brainer to support Obama. The concern that Republicans are picking the nominee is also nonsense as we are speaking of independents. Somewhere along the way in making her argument, Jeralyn substituted Republicans for independents. This comes down to whether you accept independents have a vote towards picking the nominee, which is not the same as independents outright picking the nominee. Again the question is whether you want to win. One way to bring independents into the Democratic Party is to get them involved in the primaries. It is good for the party if they vote for Obama in the primaries and then in November.

Victory is not the sole concern. If independents were flooding Democratic primaries to make John McCain the nominee then Democrats such as Jeralyn would have justifiable cause for alarm. However we are speaking of Barack Obama, not John McCain or some other conservative. Obama has received the endorsement of MoveOn and the support of many Democratic Party liberals including Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Russ Feingold. lObama is more liberal than Clinton on foreign policy, civil liberties, restricting the power of the executive branch, defending separation of church and state, drug policy, and on social issues. If you consider making health care more affordable for those who cannot currently afford it, as opposed to dwelling on mandates, then Obama has the stronger health care plan. Obama’s economic policies do more to help the poor and middle class. For example, The Washington Post compared the economic stimulus plans of each candidate. Obama’s plan earned an A- while Clinton’s plan received a C-, barely beating John McCain’s D+. While some Democrats might disagree with Obama on some issues, making the Obama the nominee is hardly a compromise of Democratic principles.

Saudis Arrested for Flirting With Women

We all know that our “allies” in Saudi Arabia subscribe to different values than we do, and that their religious views can only be described as fanatic. Here’s a quick reminder of just how fanatic they are. Fifty-seven men were arrested for flirting with women outside a shopping mall:

Saudi Arabia began interrogating 57 men Saturday who were arrested after allegedly flirting with women in front of a shopping mall in the holy city of Mecca, a local newspaper reported.

The country’s religious police arrested the men Thursday night, alleging behavior that included dancing to pop music blaring from their cars and wearing improper clothing, according to the Okaz newspaper, which is deemed close to the government.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice runs the religious police, who are charged with enforcing Saudi Arabia’s strict Islamic lifestyle.

Its members patrol public places to make sure women are covered and not wearing make up, the sexes don’t mingle, shops close five times a day for Muslim prayers and men go to the mosque and worship.

The men will be released if they can prove they did not flirt with any women. Otherwise they will go on trial.

Clinton’s Problems With Experience and Consistency

There has been a lot of talk recently regarding why the experience argument has not worked for Clinton, which I’ve also been arguing for quite a while. Via Mattew Yglesias we have this post from Scott Lemieux:

Related to this point, arguments for Clinton proceeding from her allegedly greater experience have always been unpersuasive, precisely because if Clinton’s rather marginal and contestable experiential advantages over Obama should be decisive any of the other major Democratic candidates would be unquestionably preferable to either. (And, even worse, the same would be true of McCain in the general.) Fortunately for the Dems in November, I also agree with Yglesias that experience tends to be “the time-honored election argument of losers.” I think there may be exceptions in cases of long-time executive or high-ranking military experience, but no viable candidate has that.

Justin Gardner responds with yet something else I’ve been arguing throughout this race:

And so this is why Obama’s winning and it’s why he’ll continue to win. He’s simply better positioned for the general election than Hillary because it’s about judgement, not experience.

Another aspect of the experience issue is that the type of experience matters, not simply years in public life. Clinton counts every year since she graduated from law school when claiming thirty-five years of experience, but this does not give her a real advantage over Obama. As I’ve previously written:

If we are to count every year since graduation from law school, Clinton does have more years with some experience. What is more important is the type of experience and what was done with it. While Clinton’s experience was frequently based upon seeking government solutions to problems, Obama was involved as a community organizer. This might partially explain why Clinton concentrates on imposing government solutions for problems while Obama also considers ways in which people can help themselves.

While Clinton was practicing corporate law, Obama was teaching Constitutional law. This has had an impact in his strong support for separation of church and state and the differences in their views on presidential power and executive privilege as Clinton supports decreased transparency and would be more likely to continue, and I fear abuse, the powers taken by George Bush.

I’ve noted Obama’s legislative record in another post this morning. In contrast, Clinton has supported the Iraq war, voted for Kyl-Lieberman, opposed needle exchange programs, favored strict sentences for drug use (while Obama has favored retroactive changes), supported legislation to ban flag burning, supported censorship of video games, and opposed the banning of cluster bombs. These are just some of the areas where I feel Clinton was wrong and Obama was right. Clinton’s experience certainly does not mean having better judgment on the issues

If Clinton were to be the Democratic candidate against John McCain, she would be vulnerable on another argument besides experience. Once again we would be subjected to claims of flip-flopping by the Democrat. The most obvious case would be whenever Clinton criticizes McCain on the war. With her recent complaints regarding Obama’s mailers, we now have a second major area with NAFTA.

Clinton is on record multiple times where she expresses support for NAFTA, but she suddenly objects to an Obama mailer which notes her previous support. Although she has often spoken in support of NAFTA, Clinton biographer Sally Bedell Smith has shown that she was a late convert to the idea when her husband was president. It is certainly possible that Clinton opposed the idea but supported it to back her husband, but the Republicans will still have a field day with her contradictory public statements.

At Least One Clinton Supporter Remains Realistic

When Barack Obama received the endorsement of members of the Kennedy family including Caroline Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, Clinton supporters tried to counter with the endorsement of other members of the family. Political Wire reports that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who has endorsed Clinton, spoke at St. Mary’s college in Maryland last week. She has a pretty accurate assessment of the state of the Clinton campaign:

“Townsend said she expects Sen. Barack Obama to win the Democratic presidential nomination and that Clinton is finished. She believed that the Wisconsin results demonstrated that Clinton’s coalition (voters over the age of 50 and those earning less than $50,000) had fallen apart. When asked why the Clinton campaign had failed, Ms. Townsend had plenty of opinions and she placed significant blame on Bill Clinton and his racially tinged statements in South Carolina. She also felt that Clinton made a tactical error in making “experience and inevitability” her central campaign themes. Townsend argued that Clinton had little more experience than Obama and far less than candidates such as Senators Dodd and Biden. Additionally, making the inevitability claim hurt her when she lost Iowa… Townsend then lamented Clinton’s decision to go negative and question Obama’s readiness. She said that she called the Clinton campaign and advised that they ‘go out on a high note’ but her advice was politely dismissed.”

It is good to see that even some Clinton supporters agree that Obama is going to win, that her campaign based upon claims of inevitability and greater experience was an error, and that her negative campaigning has been a mistake.