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Uploaded on May 11, 2008
This is an amazing story. The Democratic Party has a winner. It has a nominee. You know this because he has the most votes and the most elected delegates, and there's no way, mathematically, his opponent can get past him. Even after the worst two weeks of his campaign, he blew past her by 14 in North Carolina and came within two in Indiana...The Democratic Party can't celebrate the triumph of Barack Obama because the Democratic Party is busy having a breakdown. You could call it a breakdown over the issues of race and gender, but its real source is simply Hillary Clinton. Whose entire campaign at this point is about exploiting race and gender.
CNN Tuesday night..Paul Begala wore the smile of the 1990s, the one in which there is no connection between the shape of the mouth and what the mouth says...Mr. Begala more or less accused the Obama people of not caring about white voters: "[If] there's a new Democratic Party that somehow doesn't need or want white working-class people and Latinos, well, count me out." And: "We cannot win with eggheads and African Americans." That, he said, was the old, losing, Dukakis coalition...Mrs. Clinton spent this week making it clear. In a jaw-dropping interview in USA Today on Thursday, she said, "I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on." As evidence she cited an Associated Press report that, she said, "found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."
White Americans? Hard-working white Americans? "Even Richard Nixon didn't say white," an Obama supporter said, "even with the Southern strategy." If John McCain said, "I got the white vote, baby!" his candidacy would be over. And rising in highest indignation against him would be the old Democratic Party. To play the race card as Mrs. Clinton has, to highlight and encourage a sense that we are crudely divided as a nation, to make your argument a brute and cynical "the black guy can't win but the white girl can" is -- well, so vulgar, so cynical, so cold, that once again a Clinton is making us turn off the television in case the children walk by.
"She has unleashed the gates of hell," a longtime party leader told me. "She's saying, 'He's not one of us.'" She is trying to take Obama down in a new way, but also within a new context. In the past he was just the competitor. She could say, "All's fair." But now he's the competitor who is going to be the nominee of his party. And she is still trying to do him in. And the party is watching...The superdelegates...Are terrified, most of them. They want the problem to go away. They want it handled, but they don't want to do it. They don't want to tell Hillary to stop, because they would likely pay a price for it, and not just with her. They are afraid of looking as if they're jumping on a train that's speeding down the tracks and is about to roll over the damsel in distress. Which is how Hillary -- and her supporters -- will paint it. Even though she's no damsel, and she causes distress.
It's not math anymore, it's psychodrama. If she can't have it, no one can have it. If she has to tear the party apart, she will...So who, I asked, can do it? White women have been Mrs. Clinton's most reliable base of support and readiest crutch, the superdelegate said. And maybe they're the only ones who can break through, both to Mrs. Clinton and to the country, and tell her to stop. "If it's a man, she goes back to gender: Men are always picking on me, you just don't want women in power. If it's a black, it's You betrayed us, how can you call on me to get out after what I've done for you?"
The question "Who will tell her, who can make her go?" is really the question "Who will save the Democratic Party in 2008?" It cannot be doubted at this point that real damage is being done to its standard-bearer and to all those who will be on the ticket with him. Maybe the superdelegate is right, and maybe saving the party this year will be women's work. Maybe the Democratic Party establishment, such as it is, men and women, black and white and all other colors, will rise up together. Maybe that would be a perfect rebuke to race-baiting and gender-gaming.