The Democrats' cul-de-sac

The current agony of the Democratic Party, which grows more acute every day, is laden with an unspoken truth. As the unending Clinton-Obama struggle drags on, the core unutterable reality for Democrats is simply this: because of the composition of the Party's domestic coalition, its continued electoral viability makes absolutely necessary perpetual capture of 90+% of the black vote.

Because of this grim fact -- of the Party's own making -- the Clinton/Obama fight is over. Obama has won, and every leading Democrat knows it. In short, because of his race, Obama must be awarded the Democratic nomination. So much for the myth of America's first major post-racial candidate.

Under no reasonably foreseeable set of future developments, including the possibility Obama's exposure as a fatally compromised candidate, can Obama be denied the nomination. Doing so would subject the Democratic Party to the unacceptable risk that it would alienate its most dependably monolithic voter bloc. Hence, the daily gnashing of teeth by Party elders and the demand, which grows more hysterical each day, that Clinton concede a contest that at present is nothing more than a hard fought stalemate.

Without keeping focused on the Democrats' self-chosen demographic cul-de-sac, the growing demands for Clinton's withdrawal would be inexplicable, indeed, outrageous. 

Imagine the current situation with identities reversed:  picture Clinton's having built up a small but, for nomination purposes, inadequate pledged delegate lead by winning states the vast majority of which she had no hope of carrying in November (e.g., Mississippi, Wyoming, South Carolina, Utah[!], Montana etc.); imagine further that Obama were nipping at her heels in pledged delegates because he had won practically every state which the Democrats will, or can reasonably hope to, win in November. Finally,  imagine that the media only recently had given serious attention to a potentially major political liability of Clinton's that called into question her electoral viability, and that a large test of that liability's weight was about to unfold in a key state for the Democrats: e.g., Pennsylvania.

Under this hypothetical scenario -- the perfect reverse of what the Party now faces -- does any even slightly knowledgeable observer of the US political scene not on drugs believe that the Party's VIPs and media sycophants would be demanding that Obama retire from the fight "for the good of the Party"? Inconceivable.

Rather than slink from the field, Obama would be rushing forward as the Party's savior, to rescue it from a candidate whose appeal is perversely concentrated in states which Democrats cannot win, and who may turn out to be terminally flawed by a recent revelation that is about to receive further critical testing in Pennsylvania. Calls for Obama's withdrawal from the fight by Clinton under these circumstances would be met with jeers and derision.

Why is it all so different in the real world set of facts? Why are the media and Party peasants, torches and pitchforks in hand, gathered at Clinton's door, and growing more menacing each day? The answer is race, race and race. Barack Obama, who risibly claims to be America's post-racial candidate, will one day be viewed as the most overtly racial candidate in the history of American presidential politics.

Obama's entire claim that he be awarded a nomination he has not yet won, and, by pledged delegates, cannot win, is based on the huge unstated racial premise that no black man who has fought to slightly better than a draw may be denied the Democratic Party presidential nomination. But the argument goes even further: that the very weighing process by Party leaders, called for where the primary contests produce no winner, cannot occur. 

Any other candidate with a slight but indecisive delegate lead permissibly could be denied the nomination, if, with all the facts in, the Party's leaders concluded he would be the weaker nominee. Indeed, the Party's nomination system was designed to create precisely this check on a democratically driven error. Obama's supporters (speaking for Obama, of course), in claiming that this result is impermissible, are arguing that the Democratic Party's existing presidential nomination system does not apply to blacks.    

That nomination process was designed to work just as it is now working, to afford Party seniors a final look, and the exercise of independent judgment, where two or more candidates fight to no decision in pledged delegates. In such circumstances, the Party's elders (its "superdelegates") weigh in, independently judging the candidates' qualifications, including their electability, and make the final choice. Unlike many of the primary and caucus voters, superdelegates don't have to exercise their judgment until the convention after the primary/caucus process and then the summer, with the benefit of all the information that has been revealed. Not a bad system for breaking ties, really. At any rate, that is the nomination system the Democrats created -- call it pure democracy, seasoned and improved where necessary, by the exercise of independent judgment from those who have devoted their lives to Party and the art of electoral politics.

But it would appear this is the nomination system of the Democratic Party in all instances save one: where one of the contestants to the stalemate is a black man. Then he, and not the other, must be awarded the nomination despite every other consideration that might disqualify him, were he a member of any other Party identity group. 

There can be no other justification for all of the following demands:

  • that Clinton retire from the struggle before she is beaten;
  • that the superdelegates not exercise independent judgment in circumstances plainly calling for such exercise after all the facts are in; and
  • that the slimmest popular vote or delegate majorities, built up in large part before all the facts about both candidates were known, must be determinative (if that had been how the system was to work, why have superdelegates at all? They would not exist, and would have been replaced by the simple sentence: "Where neither candidate gains an absolute delegate majority from the primaries and caucuses, the nominee shall be the candidate receiving the greater number of delegates/popular votes.")

The word "audacity" comes to mind. All of these audacious claims by Obama's surrogates, supporters, and Democratic Party elders, are tenable only if Obama possesses some characteristic that trumps the Party's nomination system. And of course Obama does possess such a characteristic: he is the candidate of the only Democratic Party voter bloc whose near monolithic electoral loyalty allows it to dictate to the Party.
And so, no matter what comes tumbling out during the last phase of this increasingly bitter personal struggle, no matter what key voter demographic is conclusively revealed to be beyond Obama's reach, no matter what gross error of judgment Obama is shown to have committed, or lack of political courage he is justly seen to have exhibited and  to continue to exhibit, no matter how long and how closely he is shown to have been aligned with a  viciously lunatic and intensely anti-American race-hustler, the Party  cannot, and will not even engage in the weighing process called for by its rules, let alone deny Obama the nomination, after he has come this far. The risks of thereby fatally damaging its relationship with its most important and devoted coalition member are too great.

The Party leaders have thought this matter through and seen to the end with clear eyes. Assume the Clinton-Obama civil war shows the worst about Obama: that, after losing his umpteenth consecutive critical large state to Clinton (Pennsylvania), along with its white working class voters, Obama appears a likely November loser. Even then, the Party would prefer to go down to defeat with Obama than to endanger its mutually dependant and deleterious relationship with American blacks.

And so it is over... but not quite. Clinton, the politically undead,  staggers on, the wooden speeches,  the flat, grating voice, the forced humor, generating a mixture of pity, awe and vague nausea, as she vainly struggles against a foe she can neither name nor engage: her Party's devil's bargain with American blacks, a bargain that promises, in exchange for nearly all black votes all the time, fealty to certain imperatives, be it a continuation of social policies that are poisonous to blacks and the nation, silence and denial in the face of widespread destructive behavior patterns at the root of much of the black American dilemma, obsequious veneration of hate mongering, racial arsonist black "leaders", or,  as in the case of Obama, the nomination of  dangerously untested, thinly-resumed candidates who may be deeply flawed and unelectable. For forty years this has been the bargain and it must hold now.

And hold it will. No matter what the Clinton-Obama struggle reveals about the great unifier.

Look for Clinton to defeat Obama in Pennsylvania, particularly among the white working class, which saw the Wright videos but paid little attention to Obama's speech about them. Look also for continuing polls suggesting large defections of Clinton supporters to McCain in the event Clinton is rejected; and for revelations of previously unheard outrageous rantings by The Reverend Wright; and, possibly, for evidence placing Obama himself in the church on many pertinent days.

But none of this will matter. The devil's bargain trumps all. And so the continuing struggle between Clinton and Obama is merely a useless bloodletting, with casualties piling up, a gigantic battle of New Orleans, fought weeks after the war was decided.

If, as seems likely, the struggle continues until the last drop of good will between the combatants and their supporters is spilled, the wounds of the struggle so deepened as to be unhealable, and the faults of the inevitable winner laid bare for November to the Party's severe damage, can any injustice in this outcome be discerned?

Tragedy, by textbook definition, is the result of some enormous flaw in the one who suffers it. The  bargain the Democrats have made with American blacks - nearly all their votes in exchange for veto rights -- continues to perpetuate severe racial divisions in America, denies the reality of two generations'strenuous efforts by whites to behave fairly toward blacks, elevates racists and charlatans to positions of leadership among  blacks, perpetuates and intensifies blacks' negative feelings about whites while whites' behavior towards blacks steadily improves, and, worst of all, leaves large percentages of blacks in wretched conditions from which only honest discussion and honorable leadership could facilitate escape.

If this destructive bargain forces the Democratic Party to nominate a presidential candidate revealed deeply flawed by the Party's own nomination process, it would take the resurrected Bard himself to write the play.

James Edmund Pennington is the pen name of an attorney.