Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why West Virginia Doesn't Matter

I'm not surprised by Hillary Clinton's sweeping victory last night in West Virginia. Not only did she deliberately play the gender card by imploring women to vote for her even when she cannot win the nomination, she injected race into the minds of potential voters as well. In doing so, she ran up the score.

What we saw last night was a backlash against the media and a few notable pundits, who painted working class white voters as racist and hopelessly backwards. Indeed, the media spoke the truth. It is notable that when a person is wrong and will not admit it, he or she will often become angry. White working class anger is what we saw in yesterday's primary.

The voters of West Virginia lashed out and made their voices heard in the same way that voters of New Hampshire lashed out against the conventional wisdom back in January--handing their votes to Hillary Clinton rather than Barack Obama.

As an Obama supporter, I do not find the results troubling or upsetting, regardless of how the media would like to spin this out. Yes, West Virginia was, at one time, a Democratic stronghold but over the years it has become a conservative bastion, solidly red and solidly conservative. The last realigning Presidential election in 1968 turned the solidly Democratic south solidly GOP and the same dynamic is at play in West Virginia.

I don't fault Obama for not putting resources into West Virginia. We forget that these candidates are human being sometimes. Barack is, lest we forget, the father of two young girls and husband to Michelle. I would prefer he preserve his sanity, his marriage, and his peace of mind than to exhaust himself campaigning for a state he had no chance of winning. If he had gone into West Virginia gangbusters, he might have narrowed the gap, but he would not have won the Mountaineer state. The dynamics simply do not favor him, and no matter what the media says, most people will vote for the GOP come November in that state.

Hillary Clinton is not going to go away because her strategy now appears to be to make a compelling case why she should be Obama's Vice President. I would caution him strongly before putting her on the ticket. Indeed, she and Bill will likely use their strong hand with pledged delegates and super-delegates to directly influence the Cabinet of a presumptive Obama administration. The Clinton ego signals to me, at least, an uncomfortable marriage where he will be largely hamstrung by the whims of two egomanics: Hillary and Bill Clinton.

With Hillary Clinton on the ticket, the rust belt states that compromise Appalachia might be in play, but I strongly question whether Senator Obama should take the risk. The Clintons would not delegate responsibility well and I see them attempting to hijack his power and his administration for their own gains.

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