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Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.

John Quiggin has suggested that the problems facing the Democratic Party arise from institutional design, that each of the 50 states have their own ballot rules. I did suggest in comments that design because it allowed experimentation was part of the attraction of the federal system. The caucus experiment seems to have taken hold and spread to the stage where Texas had both a primary vote and caucus vote to determine the allocation of delegates.

Obama seems to be winning the caucus contests and trailing Clinton in the primary elections, which is the method used in the major states, such as California, New York and Illinois, which Obama just managed to win. On reflection is seems to me that caucuses and primaries give different endorsements to the candidates. The caucuses might be represented as a bottom-up process, whereas the primaries are top-down.

Of course, as Matt Bai points out in The New York Times:

You can already discern the outlines of the argument that Clinton will make to the superdelegates: The contest is basically a draw, and now it’s time to choose the candidate who can be elected. Sure, Barack’s won all those little states like North Dakota and Idaho, but what does that really get you? I’m the candidate who has won all the big states, and that’s what matters in November.

There is something to be said for that argument, but I am not convinced that local activists and democratic party members who have supported Obama during the nomination will as enthusiastic for Clinton. In that event were she to be the candidate the presidential campaign would be reduced to a media event, principally television, without the Obama crowd, and perhaps without their participation in the vote. Whereas Obama, in my estimation would hold his own support and more readily pick Clinton’s.

Matt Bai observes that:

. . . the disparity between Obama’s performance in urban primaries and rural caucuses tells us something larger — and counterintuitive — about race in America.

The assumption has always been that a black candidate should perform worse among white voters in states with less racial diversity because those voters are supposedly less enlightened. In fact, the reverse has been true for Obama: in the overwhelmingly white states of Wisconsin and Vermont, for instance, he carried 54 and 60 percent of the white voters respectively, according to exit polls, while in New Jersey he won 31 percent and in Tennessee he won 26 percent. As some bloggers have shrewdly pointed out, Obama does best in areas that have either a large concentration of African-American voters or hardly any at all, but he struggles in places where the population is decidedly mixed.

What this suggests, perhaps, is that living in close proximity to other races — sharing industries and schools and sports arenas — actually makes Americans less sanguine about racial harmony rather than more so. The growing counties an hour’s drive from Cleveland and St. Louis are filled with white voters whose parents fled the industrial cities of their youth before a wave of African-Americans and for whom social friction and economic competition, especially in an age of declining opportunity, are as much a part of daily life as traffic and mortgage payments. As Erica Goode wrote in these pages last year, Robert Putnam and other sociologists have, in fact, found that people living in more diverse areas evince less trust for others — no matter what their race. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that while white Democrats in rural states are apparently willing to accept the notion of a racially transcendent candidate, those living in the shadow of postindustrial atrophy seem to have a harder time detaching from enduring stereotypes, and they may be less optimistic that the country as a whole would actually elect a black candidate.

As Matt Bai says it looks like Pennsylvania, barring re-runs in Florida and Michigan is going to decide the Democratic nominee, and potentially the next president. Given the underlying racial fault lines, in which Pennsylvania will be similar to Ohio, the Ferraro comments have added significance, lost on the impassioned commentary of Keith Olbermann (via Truthdig):

Since the primary will be held on April 22 there is plenty of time for the rival Democrats to damage each other, and in so doing destroy the chance of their party to be successful in November. Such an outcome would be due to the politics rather than the demographics. You can see that the contest is willing, verging on nasty from the local reports from Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love. But it seems true that Clinton does own the political infrastructure, with the support of the mayor and the governor. Then again perhaps the voters of Pennsylvania may decide to take the presidential election into their own hands. In the meantime we should not forget the other ten remaining contests.


John Barrdear has been crunching the numbers on the pledged delegates together with commentary and sourcing the data.

(OK I have changed my mind from the other day. It seems to me that where it is possible to quantify the evidence, it is useful to do so.)



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