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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

She’s Not Destroying the Party. She’s Expanding It.

posted by on April 23 at 11:29 AM

This prolonged election is helping, not hurting, the Democratic Party.

Not in recent memory has a Democratic candidate been so firmly associated with the working class. And I don’t mean in a calculated, pre-fab way like John Edwards.

There isn’t another example of a Democratic candidate who, in vote after vote, has established an appeal to the all-important Silent-Majority-Reagan Democrat-Values Voter bloc that left the building sometime during LBJ’s presidency.

And more important than HRC’s actual affinity with the Wal-Mart bloc (which, she’s had since her 2000 campaign victory, as I noted when I started hyping her candidacy a year and a half ago), is this: The media—in this long campaign cycle—has glommed onto Hillary’s hard-hat appeal and is defining her as the working-class candidate again and again.

Why is this media trope important? Because it offers a serious rejoinder to those who argue that while Hillary wins these votes against Obama in a Democratic primary, she’s not going to win them against McCain.

Wrong. The more the media keeps talking about Hillary as the lunch-pail candidate (and the more McCain is ignored during the primary season), the more this important bloc actually begins thinking and voting Democratic. It’s the old “everybody’s doing it” advertising ploy, and she’s getting free advertising.

For the first time in a generation—thanks to the media coverage during this prolonged campaign that’s linking the working class vote with a Democratic Party candidate—the Democrats are poised to represent Jane and Joe Six Pack.

But what if Obama gets the nomination (which still seems like a given)? Well, first of all, even without Hillary on the ticket, there’ll be an established connection between a Democratic candidate and working-class voters, an association that hasn’t been authentic in a generation or two. This will give the party and Obama an opening they previously didn’t have. (How is this campaign destroying the Democrats, again?)

Indeed, thanks to this prolonged campaign, the media spotlight will have shown off one Democrat who can rally the lumpen proletariat vote and another Democrat who turns out tens of thousands of excited voters to stadiums. This is a win-win for the Democratic Party’s image going into the general election.

Meanwhile, it’s still 2008: The GOP incumbent is the most unpopular president in 70 years (literally). We’re in an unpopular war. And we’re teetering on some kind of economic catastrophe. Even without a massive shift toward Democrats by the white working class, Democrats are well positioned.

Additionally, Obama brings his own unparalleled strengths to the ticket that have also long eluded Democrats (although not as badly as the Reagan-Democrat thing.) He attracts independents and young voters. And while these aren’t new demographics for Democrats, Obama attracts them in bigger numbers and turns them out more consistently than previous Democratic candidates.

More important, though, Obama is charismatic. He creates a Beatlemania fervor among voters that has snowballed during this long campaign. This celebrity status could easily carry him into office in November.

Personally, I think the working-class bloc is the more important grab for the Democratic Party, but Beatlemania is good for a party too.

p.s. And obvioulsy, Pennsylvania is racist.

RSS icon Comments


If Hillary's base were "all-important" they would have been important enough to at least win her the Democratic nomination.

She's nothing but a drag on Obama. But more than 50% of Americans now view her unfavorably, so she's a kind of a uniter.

Posted by elenchos | April 23, 2008 11:42 AM

"On the west you have Pittsburgh, on the east you have Philadelphia, in between you've got Alabama." 1992 presidential campaign.

Posted by James Carville | April 23, 2008 11:46 AM


She is destroying the democratic party by doing John McCain's job for him. Come November, do you really think her working class supporters are suddenly going to forget her karl rove talking points? In her entitled, delusion mind, it's either her or nobody. Nevermind the math, nevermind the reality, nevermind the party. And if she thinks for one second that the supers are gonna steal the nomination from the first black candidate who has a real shot at this thing, then she really is living on another planet. She and her husband are two people I once had the greatest respect for, but I couldn't be more disgusted with both of them right now.

Posted by ss | April 23, 2008 11:47 AM

"Clinton has established herself as the working-class canidate."


Yeah, that's completely why my cop dad is voting for her. Oh wait-he's not, because he's conservative.
Like 85% of his department.

Posted by Marty | April 23, 2008 11:53 AM

Huh, so Clinton's claims that Obama isn't qualified for the job will have no impact on those pro-Clinton voters when it comes to the general election and Obama is facing McCain?

Please, I can just see the ads now, the Republicans will simply re-run Clinton's own statements against Obama. It it's silly to think that won't have an impact, some will vote for McCain and another group of Democrats will simply stay home on election day.

Posted by please | April 23, 2008 11:53 AM

Josh, I think your arguments are sound. Ignoring McCain while Clinton and Obama get media attention is good for the Democrats. Even if Clinton and Obama go negative on each other (which they have), I agree with what Clinton's campaign has been saying: it is nothing compared to what either candidate will face in the general election. The long term effect of a negative primary campaign will be close to nil.

The only negative of the extended primary is that Obama and Clinton continue to spend money like drunken sailors, while McCain quietly builds up his war chest.

Posted by Mahtli69 | April 23, 2008 11:54 AM

Every day, ever hour, different hair splitting. Molecule splitting. atom splitting.


take me back to a hilary/obama free slog, cable, newspaper, life

dear jaysus, please.

Posted by Non | April 23, 2008 11:59 AM

If only there weren't the reality that the supporters of each are beginning to to abhor the opposing candidate. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of voters who won't even bother to vote in November if their candidate loses the primary. Why vote for who we've learned is the enemy?

Posted by Dan | April 23, 2008 12:00 PM

No, Josh, this prolonged race is further dividing your base and giving an elephant that should have no chance in hell a fighting chance with every day this race is prolonged and every ball of mud that is slung therein.

Posted by Gomez | April 23, 2008 12:05 PM

I have to agree with the pile on. As people who were, about three months ago, very excited about the Democratic Party for the first time in our lives, both my partner and I have since come to our senses. They are as idiotic as ever. Go team.

Posted by quilsone | April 23, 2008 12:09 PM

So explain to me again how Clinton - who has a continually plummeting approval rating - will win against McCain if she wrestles the nomination away from Obama?

Will it be because of the scores of African-American and young voters (like me) who rally behind her? No,they don't matter. Even if they did, she's driven them all away.

Will it be because of the voters in small-to-medium states who appreciate how she said their votes don't count? They don't matter either.

What about all the independents (like me) and Republicans who voted Democrat for the first time in their lives because of Obama? We're probably not sticking around.

And you're still forgetting the fact that when she's trashing the Iraq war in a debate against him, all McCain has to say is: "So then why did you vote the same way I did?"

Posted by Georgia Guy | April 23, 2008 12:13 PM

It's hurting, not helping the Democratic party--at least in the short term (and by short term, I mean this election cycle). Why do you think that McCain is polling as well as he is in head-to-head matchups vs. both Clinton and Obama? Maybe because he's flying under the radar? Do you really think that "lunchbox Democrats" and "Jane and Joe Six Pack" are, unlike us latte-drinking elites, enjoying this race, and are just waiting for someone to FINALLY pander to them?

The problem with the argument that you're making is that it's rationalization--it's not based on any data. But then again, you do use boldface quite liberally, which does lend gravitas to what you're saying.

Posted by sleestak | April 23, 2008 12:14 PM

The thing I like about Hill, despite the many things I don't like about how she's campaigning, is that she is starting to look like a dirty street fighter, while Obama is all high-minded. I am as liberal/progressive, elitist, and high-minded as the next Seattle Dem, but I think it's street-fighting that is going to win in November. Ugly, but true. I think Obama is behind the eight-ball because he is a person of color, but even more, he is starting to seem like John Kerry or Adlai Stevenson or George McGovern. Says good things, but without the down-to-earth way of communicating.

I will support whoever runs against McCain in November. I just think Obamatons are naive in not seeing how kicked around he's going to get. He is inspirational, in a vague sort of way, but he is not closing the deal.

Posted by Jolene | April 23, 2008 12:26 PM

MSNBC threw out the statistic that 52% of Clinton voters in the Penn. exit polls would not vote for Obama. That is not good.

Posted by Mike | April 23, 2008 12:34 PM

Jolene, Clinton isn't "closing the deal" either but Obama is winning.

Posted by Jersey | April 23, 2008 12:34 PM

The future of the Democratic Party is not among Rust Belt whites, its West of the Mississippi, urbanites, and minorities (Latinos in particular, Hillary's appeal there is more a harbinger for the future of the party not her appeal among the Archie Bunker set).

All this talk about Hillary winning the "white Reagan Democrat vote" is simply only true for the Rust Belt: with their declining populations. The argument that Hillary is a better candidate this time around because of these white lunch pail Rust Belt Democrats is a valid one. However, the future of the Democratic Party does not lie in Cleveland, Akron, and Scanton.

Also, its generational. White men and women under 40 beat Clinton even in Ohio and Pennsylvania. So I think--should Hillary get the nomination--she may be expanding the Party this election, but she's not riding a future trend for liberalism. She's squeaking one last final victory under the old coalition.

Posted by Jason | April 23, 2008 12:34 PM

Jolene, So you only agree with Rovian tactics when it's your favored candidate using them? even against someone very similar in policy and party?

The best part is, one can say "oooh she can fight dirty" but obama is still winning, and will win total

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 23, 2008 12:36 PM

@ 13

I think it's that he sees that it insane to go super negative "street-fighter" on Hillary because to do so would be to destroy any possible unity within the party -- a point that Hillary doesn't seems to care about.

Posted by Dan | April 23, 2008 12:37 PM

Seriously, we get it -- everybody else is wrong and you're the only one who sees that dividing and hating and fear and Republican tactics are actually uniting and loving and hope and Democratic ideals. And soon you will be gone and you'll take your nonense and your sad need for attention with you.

Posted by whatevernevermind | April 23, 2008 12:39 PM

The ability to fight dirty is actually one of the most sad things about Clinton's run. She does it, it barely makes an impact in the race, and somehow that makes what obama is doing less amazing?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 23, 2008 12:41 PM

Sez a friend:

Hillary isn't winning over these voters, she is scaring them away from Obama and catching them when they fall. She can't win, so she ends up being a gateway drug for people who are considering leaving Obama but aren't ready to call themselves Republicans. It also causes them to identify with a targetable group, making it easier for McCain to swoop in. Rather than leaving the Democratic Party, they will be leaving Hillary, which will be easy when she's out of the race and conspicuously absent from the Obama campaign trail in the general.

Posted by nice try, give up | April 23, 2008 12:48 PM

At the end of the day of the day, there is no such thing as bad publicity! Just ask the swift boat veterens.

Watch, I will bet a LOT of money that the Republicans will drag out their next primary.

Posted by OR Matt | April 23, 2008 1:02 PM

There is a big problem with this narrative about "working class" voters that Clinton, the media, and Josh keep throwing around.

This is not THE working class. It's one privileged segment of it. Identity politics and pandering to this group may be totally incompatible with building a broader coalition that would include the working class, more broadly defined.

Posted by jonglix | April 23, 2008 1:04 PM

yep. all the new young energized voters are finding this so fun! it's like encouraging a kid to join track by making him run 10 miles.

"I was filled with so much energy and motivation late last year,” she said, noting that she even attended Obama primary parties. But now, “I can’t do it any more — I can’t sit here and watch them bellyache, watch Clinton trail in delegates, then come back after an election, then lose the next six,” she said. “I definitely can’t watch another debate.” “Obama’s slogan is ‘Change that we can believe in,’ “ she continued. “I believed it, but that belief has one foot out the door."

egg on your face feit.

Posted by cochise. | April 23, 2008 1:05 PM


Yeah, she throws the kitchen sink at him over and over again. It makes a temporary dent in the polls, then Obama bounces back. What does she have left? Will the dirty campaigning magically start working at some point? Because right now it seems to only be contributing to her unfavorable ratings.

Posted by keshmeshi | April 23, 2008 1:13 PM

The superdelegates need to make their decisions, and they need to make them NOW.

This has gone on long enough... ol' Yeller needs to be put down.

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | April 23, 2008 1:18 PM

If Hillary's supporters are solidly behind their candidate, why don't they donate money to her? 90% of Obama's donations come from small donors - real people like me. But Clinton's supporters don't send her anything. Her money comes from big donors and PAC's, which is one of the reasons her campaign is broke.

I think their unwillingness to give their cash to Clinton speaks volumes about how little they truly believe in her. If you support Hillary, tell us how much you donated to her campaign.

I've given Obama $250 so far and I expect to send twice that by the end of the election in November.

Posted by montex | April 23, 2008 1:20 PM

Is it me? Or is there a double standard when it comes to negative adds. It's OK, if Republicans do it, hell it's a sign of strenth, but highly unfavored if dems do it.

Posted by OR Matt | April 23, 2008 1:20 PM

So let's see. Clinton establishes herself as the "working class candidate" (despite NAFTA, the WTO, FTAA, CAFTA, the drug war, "ending welfare as we know it", etc) by saying time and again that Obama is unfit to govern. She either doesn't get the nomination and therefore sets the stage for this bloc to abandon ship and vote for McCain (I hear he loves his country), or she gets the nomination by using the superdelegate process and comes out of the gate looking totally illegitimate and overruling the will of the majority of Democratic Party voters.

This helps the Democratic Party how?

Posted by Trevor | April 23, 2008 1:39 PM

A. If Gore had run we would not have this issue right now. DAMN YOU AL GORE!!!!!!! ((shaking my fist in the air))

B. All that money they are making on the Democratic side is being used to attack another Democrats. All the money McCain raises is going to be used in the general election.

C. No matter who gets the nomination a good 20 to 30% of the party is going to jump ship and either stay home, vote Nader or be really pissy and vote McCain.

D. Hillary is running the GOP attack ads for McCain right now which saves the Republicans money.

E. The GOP only needs a close race to steal the election by playing games with certian voting precincts that they need to win.

f. And it is a fools game to think Rove is out of the picture. Until he is dead with a stake in his heart he will still play the system like he did in 2000, 2002 and 2004. The screw up in 2006 is not enough to make him damaged goods to the GOP

Posted by Andrew | April 23, 2008 1:46 PM

"How is this campaign destroying the Democrats, again?"

Josh, you keep asking this stupid question, people keep answering, you keep ignoring them, and you keep asking the question again. Please stop, or at least read and comprehend the comments thread every once in awhile.

"can just see the ads now, the Republicans will simply re-run Clinton's own statements against Obama."

That's the funniest fucking thing I've read in a long while. When did Republicans start listening to Clinton? When did independents start listening to the person that *lost* the primary? It sounds plausible, but I really don't think it will pan out that way. Putting someone of the other party on your campaign ads just seems like a bonehead move.

I can imagine it now...

"Obama says he's ready to be president, but HIS OWN PRIMARY OPPONENT said he wasn't ready!"

Wow, REALLY? Ya think?

"you do use boldface quite liberally, which does lend gravitas to what you're saying"

Scratch what I said earlier, THAT is the funniest fucking thing I've read in awhile.

#28, I think there's some truth to that. It doesn't fit the cute little narrative and characterizations of the two parties that the media has been pushing for almost 10 years.

Posted by w7ngman | April 23, 2008 1:52 PM

It's all about the six (6) delegate bounce for Hils.

And how that won't help her when Obama picked up four times as many superdelegates today.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 23, 2008 1:52 PM

Yeah, yay for optimism. Can't wait to see ya whining and crying on here when McCain takes the white house, Josh. Working class Americans will stand behind McCain any day of the week. Clinton? Give me a break. The democracts have already imploded.

Posted by Jay | April 23, 2008 2:51 PM

Beatlemania may be good for the party, but not when Mark Hillary Chapman is shooting at it.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | April 23, 2008 3:36 PM

How is she hurting the party? Let me count the ways.

1) McCain should be in the spotlight so we can have real debate over the issues instead of the Democrats nitpicking each others extremely similar ideas. Let him try to justify his "health care plan" or his gas holiday idea in an open debate.

2) Every dollar spent now fighting each other is possibly one less dollar spent later fighting McCain. How many people can only afford to give once and will be tapped out when the real race starts.

3) Is there any way that Hillary can win without pissing off huge numbers of voters. If super delegates end up supporting Hillary even though Obama wins a majority of regular delegates they better have a damn good reason or they are going to alienate a lot of voters.

4) Plain old attrition. This same old crap every day is just tiring. All the people I know who usually ignore politics but were starting to get excited have gone back to ignoring it. We need something exciting and different, and since McCain is such a great target on so many issues lets use that to our advantage instead of letting him fly under the radar and slowly accumulate a base of voters.

One question for you Josh: would you be arguing this same point if the roles were reversed? If Obama was almost certain to lose but wouldn't back down, would you still be saying what a great thing this fight is for the Democrats?

Posted by Queegmire | April 23, 2008 4:04 PM

I totally agree with you, Josh. McCain can't get the media, or anyone else, interested in him. He's a dud. The extended primary season is bringing out all kinds of new voters, who are more enthusiastic then ever before. All the media attention and all the new dems can only help the party. People can say now that they won't vote for the eventual nominee if it's not their 1st choice, but come November, I doubt that'll be the case. Whichever one does not secure the nomination will surely support the other, and I think the rest of the Dems will follow suit.

Posted by right on josh | April 23, 2008 4:26 PM

I think people are lost in the proverbial trees and forgetting the forest. Yes, in the short term, Hillary's bullshit is stinking up the whole party and giving easy ammo to the GOP. But it is also building voter rolls, databases, and organizations that the eventual nominee--Obama--will be able to exploit once Clinton drops out. Obama's not spending all of his money and there's no sign that his fundraising is drying up--he's still bringing in a million dollars a day and at an average of $100 each that's sustainable through November.

We'll have a nominee by the end of June, a happy convention, a money advantage, and all of the dirty laundry already on the table so that it's old news. McCain will be a ripe target who's been giving a pass so far, and he's out of touch on the economy and the war and health care and pretty much everything 70% of the electorate cares about. Obama is still likely to win this thing by a comfortable margin--290 to 300 electoral college votes.

The media and the Republican Party want you to buy in to their spin about all of this, and for the moment, you're doing exactly that. Take a few breaths, look at the big picture, and realize that everything is going to be OK.

Posted by Cascadian | April 23, 2008 4:27 PM

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