In the minds of most Americans, Hillary Clinton got the double-digit victory she needed in Pennsylvania last night to remain viable in her race against Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. To the liberal zealots over at Daily Kos, on the other hand, special rules of arithmetic always apply: round up or down, depending on which result most benefits Obama. The latest reports from the Keystone State show Clinton leading Obama 54.69% to 45.31%, which, to most of us, rounds up to 55-45. Listen, however, to Kos himself, site proprietor Markos Moulitsas Zúniga:
"That's a difference of 9.38 percent which, if you're going to round, would round down to 9 percent, not 10 percent."
Well, all right then.
Another front page Kos diarist is busy this morning insisting that nobody should pay attention to the nationwide popular vote totals, a strange statement to post on a website that still insists George W. Bush stole the 2000 election from Al Gore. But apparently, if the votes from Florida and Michigan are included, Clinton has now received more support from individual Americans in 2008 than her frontrunning opponent. At this point, of course, such an argument would be a bit of a stretch for Team Hillary since Obama's name was not even on the ballot in Michigan. But the fact that Kossacks feel the need to strike back preemptively against the argument that every vote should count tells us a great deal about where Obamamania has taken the left blogosphere.
And this is, quite clearly, the dilemma that the Democratic Party now faces. For the past four years, left-wing activists and their blogs have claimed that they are committed to the Democrats recapturing the White House in 2008. But something has changed over the past four months. It seems that they are now committed exclusively to Barack Obama winning the presidency and are impervious to all the warning signs that have emerged over the past several weeks, particularly their champion's persistent inability to connect with white working class and Latino voters in the states that will likely decide who wins the election in November.
Having said that, it is likely that the Kossacks will, in the end, get their way. By promising to throw a tantrum if the nomination is "stolen" by Super Delegates acting entirely within the scope of their authority and mandate, the Democratic left has put their party in an impossible situation. The one thing the Democrats cannot afford is to go into the fall campaign with large portions of their base openly questioning the legitimacy of the party's nominee. That is especially true this year, with the issue of race never far from the surface.
At some level, Hillary Clinton must understand this. She must realize that unless she wins every remaining primary and caucus, which she won't, she will come to Denver at least 100 delegates behind Obama. Further, her political instincts should tell her that the Super Delegates, elected officials and party officers, will lack the political will to overturn what is now called—and laughably, given the disproportionate impact of low-turnout caucuses—the will of the people.
At this point, I assume that Clinton is simply hanging around hoping for an electoral miracle. Or, more likely, she remains in the race just in case there is yet one final skeleton to be found in the closet of her still relatively unknown opponent. Obama has already been rocked by his connection to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his carelessly elitist comments about working class bitterness, and even (ridiculously) his nodding relationship with a radical bomb-thrower from the 1960s. We've learned a lot about Senator Obama over the past month or so, little of it helpful to his campaign. Team Hillary can perhaps dream that one more shoe remains to be dropped.
The Obama argument, repeated often and with conviction in the internet echo chambers, is that once the Democratic nominee is chosen, Hillary Clinton's supporters, especially women, union members, and Latinos, will line up behind his candidacy. This may well be true of Latinos, who could be critical in several southwestern states, though a Clinton nomination would likely do more to motivate high turnout. But Obama's prospects among working class men and women are great deal more iffy.
Four years ago, in the darkness of George Bush's victory over John Kerry, liberal bloggers pledged themselves to do everything possible to see that the next presidential election would bring the Democrats to power. And then they fell in love. Ever since, they have been unable and unwilling even to consider the possibility that Hillary Clinton, rather than Barack Obama, might be the strongest Democratic candidate to face off against John McCain.
Thus, they will not stop to consider, even for a moment, the implications of Senator Clinton's ten-point victory last night in Pennsylvania. Indeed, they'll insist that it's only a 9.38 point victory and then demand that we round that figure down. They'll tell us that delegates matter more than voters. They'll persistently defend the notion that victories in Alabama, Idaho, and—since it's coming soon—North Carolina matter every bit as much as primary results in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California. They'll willfully ignore the distorting effects of the caucuses.
And then, if the Democratic ticket loses in November, they'll blame the rest of us.