Sunday, January 27, 2008

Madame President

Barack Obama all but pronounced himself president after winning the South Carolina primary yesterday. He got 55% of the vote. He seemed deaf to the fact that he got 78% of the black vote but only 20% of the white vote. I haven't seen it reported anywhere, but the numbers make it likely that Hillary Clinton got more white votes than Obama did and Edwards about as many.

Bill Clinton showed his political and intellectual superiority by setting out to use Obama's strengths against him. Bill casually observed that Jesse Jackson had won in South Carolina in both 1984 and 1988. Since Jackson never had any chance of winning the nomination let alone the election, that was a persuasive brushing aside of the South Carolina result. Put less politely, Clinton's observation was that any black politician would win the South Carolina Democratic primary, no matter how lame, so it didn't mean anything.

The remark also revealed the contradictory premises Obama is running on. He tells blacks they should vote for him because he's black, and he tells other voters his color doesn't matter, that he's a unity candidate. I think the endlessly shrewd William Jefferson Clinton has thought this through and the Clinton campaign is going to work on defining Obama as a black candidate.

In retrospect, that was the tactical significance over the seemingly idiotic controversy over whether Martin Luther King or Lyndon Johnson brought about the Civil Rights Act. Seen from a national point of view of course it was Johnson. Only from the narrower view of the politics of mobilizing black voters and marchers was it King. Obama fell right into the trap by claiming it was MLK rather than LBJ. Clinton got Obama to define himself as a black candidate, one who can carry South Carolina and no other state, a latter day Jesse Jackson. The white voters of South Carolina just demonstrated that Clinton's strategy is working.

I am sad to have to predict that the Democratic nominee and the next president will be Mrs. Clinton. The Clinton campaign will be more professional and organized, staffed by many of the same people that worked on the last two Clinton campaigns. The inspiration campaign Obama will have to rely on will be less effective. I predict too that if McCain is the GOP nominee, he will be a latter day Bob Dole and suffer the same fate.

I predict also that her presidencies will be the most polarizing and embittering since those of Abraham Lincoln, the most scandal-ridden since Harding. My reason for thinking so is that she has shown such ruthlessness in Democratic party politicsm and such smug self-righteousness, that her instinct will always to be to hardball and to stonewall. If she is the same in national politics, the Republicans will gladly reply in kind. If they regain control of congress in 2010, it is conceivable she will be the second Clinton to be impeached.

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