Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Who's the Real Democrat?

This post is probably written a week or two late but I've been a bit busy recently.

Hillary Clinton has been making the absolutely ludicrous argument that she makes a better general election candidate because the traditionally blue states have selected her as their Democratic nominee rather than Barack Obama. This is insane for three reasons.

1. The Democratic primary has very little bearing on how the states will elect the president in November. Somehow I just don't see California, New York, New Jersey and most of New England voting for John McCain in November. Blue states don't turn into red states just because their shade of blue didn't prevail. Just ask Vermont.

2. If the democratic primary did have anything to do with the general election, wouldn't it be better if a candidate showed broad appeal from independents and some Republicans rather than narrow appeal from the hard-core leftist party members who would be more likely to vote a straight party ticket anyways? In general elections, the moderate voters will always determine the outcome of an election, since it is almost inconceivable to attract support from both the far-left and the far-right with no support from the middle (unless you're Ron Paul). Therefore, it would seem to me that the candidate the voters in the middle prefer should be the most viable candidate in November. Typically Democrats in red states tend to me more moderate than their blue state brothers, so if you're trying to pick off a few reddish swing states to win an election (Colorado, Missouri), you want to get in good with those Democrats. Admittedly, winning hard-core red states like Utah or Montana doesn't really say anything about the viability of the candidate in the general election, but it's for the same reason that winning Massachusetts and California doesn't say anything about the viability of the candidate.

3. Clinton could be arguing that not being able to win blue states means that Obama is not a true Democrat and does not share Democratic values. But take a look at these maps:

If these were general election maps, which color do you think would represent the Democratic nominee? Would it be blue which is found mostly in small rural communities, or would it be green which is found in large numbers in the big cities? In Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri and Texas, Barack Obama (green) won the cities, which almost always go Democratic. In Pennsylvania, he won Philly big. The man won in San Francisco for god's sake! And yet, Hillary Clinton thinks that Barack Obama can't win these blue states. I hate to tell her, but Obama's support in these states came from the same people that will be voting for the Democrat in November, while Hillary's came from the rural towns and counties that will colored bright red on CNN's maps in November.

So, this is a really dumb argument that could favor either candidate.

(Thanks for the maps, NY Times)


Jacob said...

I think it's at least several more reasons insane, but I guess yours are plenty.

I'd argue that moderate voters aren't always the deciding voting bloc, though (unless we redefine the moderates with every election). Sometimes turnout of one's "base" (I feel horrible just using these terms) could make up for a loss of a lot of moderate voters. Isn't this how 2004 worked?

Primary match-ups bear so little resemblance to general election match-ups, it's tempting to ignore them completely. But since they do target the extreme elements of a party, they may be at least somewhat helpful in predicting how likely those voters are to come out for a particular candidate (instead of just staying home). This is why I'm a lot less worried about Clinton voters who'll vote for McCain in November than I am about Clinton voters who won't come out at all (I guess those voters only hurt half as much, though).

Steve said...

Its hard to imagine a primary voter, who cared enough to go out and vote in a contest that means very little (especially at this stage when superdelegates are the only determining factor), refusing to vote in the general election. Unless they are a resident of a state whose outcome is not in any doubt, like me.

By the way, since I posted this entry, I've heard that Clinton's excuse for staying in the race now is that she is the candidate who has the most chance with the poor, rural voters that often swing Republican. In other words, its exactly the opposite position of her earlier excuse for staying in the race.