Democrats in Big Hurry to Lose White House, Think They Can Not Lose.  Judge Smith and Role Reversals

            For the third election in a row, the Democrats are in a big hurry to lose the White House.  In 2000, Al Gore jumped into his limousine at 2:00 a.m. to rush over and concede defeat even before the votes in Florida had been counted.  In 2004, John Kerry conceded defeat in less time after the polls closed than some voters waited on line in Ohio.   Now, Democrats are in a big hurry to end the primary race in spite of conclusive proof that the voters are still unwilling to decide between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  By any and all objective measures, Clinton and Obama each have the support of 48% of the Democrats and voters, with 4% still undecided.

Democrats Think They Can Not Lose

            At this moment, May 18, 2008, the Democrats think they can not lose in November because they have recently won three Special House Elections in solidly Republican districts.  The House district of Speaker Dennis Hastert even went to the Democrats.  A solidly Republican district in Mississippi and another in Louisiana went for the Democrats, too.  Naturally, the Democrats think this is a sign that the tide is running in their direction. 

            But a look at the numbers reveals a very different story.  Dennis Hastert’s 14th Congressional District in Illinois went to the Democrats 52,205 to 47,180.  Less than 100,000 votes, 99,385 to be exact, were cast in that Special Election.  The Democrats won by 5,025 votes.  In November 2004, 279,018 votes were cast in the 14th Congressional District.  Hastert received 191,618 almost double the entire turnout in the Special Election.  The Democrat received 87,400 votes.  In other words, the Democrats did not so much win in the 14th District as the Republicans lost.  While 60% of the 2004 Democratic vote turned out, only 24.6% of the 2004 Republican vote turned out.  One might almost say that the Republicans threw the election. 

            In Louisiana’s 6th District, the Democrats won by 2,957 votes out of 101,017 ballots cast.  The Democrat received 49,703 (49.20%) to the Republican’s 46,746 (46.28%), while independents received 4,568 (4.52%).  In the November 2004 General election, Louisiana’s 6th district had 258,869 voters, with the Republican receiving 186,106.  In Louisiana, the Republican turnout of 25.1% of the Republican 2004 general election vote is shockingly close to the 24.6% in Illinois.  The Democratic turnout of 68.3% of the Democratic 2004 General Election vote was comparable to the 60% in Illinois.  The major difference between the Democratic victory in Illinois and Louisiana is that in the latter the Democrats failed to win 50% of the vote. 

            Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District Special Election attracted only 67,361 voters in a district that polled 277,584 voters in 2004.  Less than 1 in 4 of the 2004 voters bothered to vote in the Special Election in Mississippi, while in Illinois and Louisiana it was slightly more than 1 in 3.  The Democrat won by 2,127 with 33,304 (49.44%) to the Republican’s 31,377 (46.28%) and independents’ 2,880 (4.28%).  As in Louisiana, the winning Democrat did not receive more than 50% of the vote.

            The Democratic victories in the three House Special Elections are more a sign of hope than a harbinger of victory.  Paper thin margins on severely depressed turnout is not a good predictor of results in November when the presidential candidates will bring out the voters in droves.  It will not take many of the 150,000 to 200,000 extra traditionally Republican McCain voters who will cast ballots in each of these districts in November to overturn these small margins.  The Democratic victories in the House Special Elections is less a certain sign of Democratic victory than an indication that they have a chance of winning.

            In some ways, increasing Democratic margins in the House bode poorly for the presidential candidate.  In 28 years since Ronald Reagan was elected, the Congress and the White House have been held by the same party for only 6 years.  Split party government, a rarity until World War II, has become the norm since.  In those interstices when the same party held both the Presidency and Congress, the country has been plunged into war three times: once in Vietnam and again in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The record of single party rule has not been a good one.  At the moment, the trend of the voters is toward a McCain presidency with an overwhelming Democratic majority in the House (which handles economics of which McCain admits he knows nothing, and a sizable Democratic majority in the Senate where former presidential candidates Clinton and Obama would be able to rally their colleagues who endorsed them into delivering on their promises to get out of Iraq.)

Judge Smith and the Women’s Movement

            In retired first woman Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s book The Majesty of the Law she tells the story of how women’s rights came to be included in the landmark civil rights statutes passed in the mid 1960’s under Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society legislation.  Judge Howard W. Smith, an arch conservative segregationist from Virginia, was the Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee from the 84th Congress, when Democrats took back control after the Eisenhower landslide in 1952, until he was defeated for renomination in 1966.

            When John Kennedy was elected president in 1960, his first item of legislation was to expand the House Rules Committee because it was a given that any socially progressive legislation would go nowhere unless Judge Smith’s power was diluted.  House Speaker Sam Rayburn and former Senate Majority Leader and Vice-President Lyndon Johnson helped Kennedy pass this crucial first item on his legislative agenda.

            After Kennedy’s assassination, as Johnson started sending civil rights legislation up to the Hill, Judge Smith remained implacably opposed to any federal legislation designed to ensure equal rights for blacks.  In a last ditch attempt to derail the voting rights and public accommodations acts, Judge Smith inserted “women” into the legislation, because he thought the inclusion of women would tip the balance and defeat the bills.  Legislative legerdemain can not stop a runaway train, and the legislation passed intact, thus piggy backing the woman’s movement onto the civil rights movement, almost like an afterthought.

            Of course, legislation can not and does not change people’s opinions.  In the latest polls, 14% of the voters think that a black person should not be president of the United States, but 18% do not think a woman should be president.  Worse for women, is that many of the people who oppose a woman as president cite scripture as the reason. These poll percentages alone should give pause to people who think a Democratic presidential victory in November is inevitable.  Any candidate who starts with 14% or 18% of the voters automatically against their winning, regardless of position on issues or anything else, is a decided underdog.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is suffering from what Andrei Gromyko, the late Soviet Foreign Minister called, “mass ideological psychosis.” 

            And there can be little doubt that the Republican, CIA trained, regime change, election stealing, war mongering incumbents are well aware of these facts and are unethical enough to use them to the fullest to preserve the war in Iraq by electing McCain in November.

Obama Does Not Have the Nomination Clinched

            Currently, Senator Barack Obama is planning to claim victory in the Democratic Nomination on May 20th, after the primaries in Oregon and Kentucky.  His argument is that he holds the majority of the committed delegates and that therefore the super delegates should vote for him, the contest should end, and he should be the nominee.  That he is currently behind in the popular vote is dismissed as irrelevant.  That the number of delegates needed for nomination is determined by omitting Florida and Michigan, two states needed for a Democratic victory in November, is called “obeying the rules.”  Obama removed his name from the Michigan ballot.  Even giving him credit in Michigan for all the non-Clinton voters (there was an uncommitted slate on the ballot) he is still slightly behind in popular vote.  Can the Democrats win by choosing a nominee by ignoring the 2,329,672 voters in Florida and Michigan?  This is beginning to sound a lot like the 2000 General Election where Bush was selected as president by not accurately counting the votes in Florida. 

            Furthermore, every president in the 20th century until Bill Clinton had won the New Hampshire primary.  George W. Bush lost the New Hampshire primary, too; and really lost the election.  In 2004, Kerry won the New Hampshire primary and New Hampshire was the only state that voted for Bush in 2000 that switched to Kerry in the General Election.  New Hampshire will be a swing state in November.  Al Gore would have been elected president even with Florida being stolen from him if he had only carried New Hampshire.  The switch to Kerry in 2004 is a mia culpa.  This year, McCain and Clinton won the New Hampshire primary. 

            So, does Barack Obama have the nomination locked up?  Not if anyone is paying attention to the voters.  The voters are still undecided and want the contest to continue, if for no other reason, so that they can really understand the nomination process in all its minutiae and detail.  After eight years of Bush and Cheney, voters really want to understand where these candidates come from.  They also want to choose the vice-president, which is why Clinton and Obama are neck and neck. 

             Superdelegates can say anything they like.  They can say they are for Obama today and Clinton yesterday, and change back tomorrow.  But the votes of the superdelegates do not count until the convention convenes in Denver and the votes are cast for the nominee.  If the Democrats want to guarantee that they lose in November, all they need to do is end the nomination contest in May, before all the delegates have even been selected.

            The last time this happened was in 1984 with Walter Mondale who lost to Ronald Reagan in one of the biggest landslides in history.  Mondale was losing primary after primary.  When Democrats called his headquarters urging him to drop out so the party could find a good candidate to run against Reagan, the party leadership said, “We believe that Vice-President Mondale is the strongest candidate.”  Strong candidates win votes.  In the most recent contests, including North Carolina and Indiana, Clinton was winning in the high turnout counties while Obama was winning in the low turnout counties.  Clearly, the Democratic nominating contest is not over.  Only a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket stands any chance to eek out a narrow victory in November.  If Clinton and Obama can’t figure out how to get together for the good of the party, how are they ever going to figure out how to get the country together for the good of the nation?

But the real indication that Obama does not have the nomination clinched is proved by the following thought experiment.  Change the candidates.  Say Obama was ahead in the popular vote and had been on all the ballots, but that Clinton was ahead in committed delegates based on low turnout caucuses in predominantly Republican states.  Say that Obama was urging that all the votes be included and that the number needed for nomination include Florida and Michigan but that Clinton was claiming to follow the party rules by having removed her name from the Michigan ballot and supporting the exclusion of Florida and Michigan from the number needed to nominate.  Would anyone be saying that Clinton had the nomination locked up? 

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf