Mar 13, 2008

March 12, 2008: Polarized By Race, The Coalition Threatens to Unravel, Choosing a Sword

Barack Obama’s victory in last night’s Mississippi Presidential Primary came as welcome relief in the wake of last week’s setbacks, but exit polling revealed some troubling trends. In a report filed by the Associated Press (see;_ylt=AoPbWgvOuSPTVnkwAfUNKVh24cA ) exit polls show Mississippi voters more polarized than any other state that has so far voted this season. “Seven in 10 whites voted for Clinton, while 9 in 10 blacks voted for Obama.” The Associated Press also reported that “Clinton’s margin among whites was about even with her largest margin among the group to date, which was neighboring Alabama.” Additionally, according to exit polls, “one in four whites said that race was important to their votes, and nearly all of them voted for Clinton. Four in ten blacks said that race was important to their votes and nearly all of them voted for Obama.”

The great racial divide, revealed so starkly in the returns out of the deep South, portent trouble for both the Obama and the Clinton candidacy, for as the rancorousness of this contest escalates the greater the political polarization leaving whoever gets the prize with a potentially empty victory. Clearly in these returns one can gauge the unraveling of the coalition that had emerged in that remarkable string of 12 straight victories. In Mississippi last night as in Alabama and to a lesser degree Ohio, Americans voted their tribe.

It is hard not to fault the Clintons for this. With each defeat the Clintons are presented with an ever greater uphill struggle to reach parity with Obama in the pledged delegate count. With last night’s loss in Mississippi the Clinton campaign is faced with the stark reality that it is running out of primaries in which to make up the lost ground. According to the estimates of MSNBC, for instance, Hillary will soon be looking at having to carry Pennsylvania and Indiana with 70% of the vote—a most unlikely scenario.

What should have happened here, if the interests of the country and the party were paramount, is that the Clintons—looking at those numbers—should have concluded that the prize has nearly slipped from their grasp and that the only real course of action would be to take the high road, talk about the issues, and let the people decide. Instead they went about the business of dragging the whole process through the mire, kicking and screaming, whining and complaining, and throwing whatever smelled the worst at what now has to be the odds-on-favorite to be the party’s nominee. The Clintons have clearly put the quest for personal power ahead of both the country and the party, and we are now threatened, as these troubling returns out of the deep South suggest, with an ever divisive campaign leading to a death struggle for the nomination—a nomination that, after the Clinton’s get through, may not be worth winning.

It boils down to this: what we may have here is yet another miserable food-fight deciding nothing except, perhaps, the very sword upon which the party is about to impale itself.

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