It’s Barack, Like It or Not

April 24, 2008

Loyal Democrats should be grateful to Hillary Clinton, the Energizer Bunny of presidential politics, for her perseverance. Had she not stayed in the race against enormous pressure to bow out in favor of the media’s anointed one, Democrats would have ended up nominating that “seriously flawed” candidate.

But wait. They’re almost destined to anyway. They have little choice. How can they avoid nominating Barack Obama — no matter how compromised he has become?

Just consider the magnitude of the Democrats’ dilemma. They desperately want to regain the White House. They believed, as did political oddsmakers, the stars were lining up to make 2008 their banner year for both the presidential and congressional elections. Barack Obama had emerged as seemingly the most impressive candidate in years.

But when things seem too good to be true, they usually are. There was no way Obama could measure up to the supernatural image his supporters and the media painted of him. But little did we know that he would crash so far and so fast, that he was not only not messianic but also, like Hillary, “seriously flawed,” in the words of Washington Post columnist David Broder.

Despite Obama’s string of successes, he hasn’t been able to win any major states, except for his home state of Illinois. He got blown out in Pennsylvania, even against the other “seriously flawed” candidate, who recently reminded voters, via sniper tall tales, of her propensity to prevaricate.

While Obama distinguished himself in the early debates, he damaged himself in recent ones, showing much less poise under fire than we’d come to expect. He replaced Hillary as whiner in chief when ABC’s debate moderators put him on the hot seat about his personal relationships and his elitist statements that disparaged millions of Americans.

No matter how much apologists insist his longtime association with the Rev. Wright is irrelevant, a good percentage of Americans will not be fooled. No matter how glibly Fox News’ Alan Colmes speciously claims it’s unfair to impute to Obama the views of former terrorist William Ayers, it’s damning enough that Ayers and everything he stands for don’t viscerally repulse Obama. How can Americans prudently entrust the Oval Office to a man who would have anything to do with a self-professed, unrepentant Pentagon bomber, much less allow this anarchist to throw a state Senate fundraiser for him?

It’s hard to see how he overcomes Wright, Ayers and the gratuitous, categorical insult to small-town Americans and other disclosures that are sure to follow. And if all that weren’t enough, Republicans will be prepared to use Obama’s history of uncompromising, extreme liberalism to undermine his claim to be a bipartisan uniter. He’ll have difficulty, for example, explaining away his radical and heartless position supporting partial-birth abortion and, some argue, even certain cases of infanticide.

Despite all these revelations and what they portend for Obama’s electability, Democrats face two possibly insurmountable obstacles to dumping Obama: their purported commitment to small “d” democracy and the race issue.

We’ve heard them selectively bellyaching for eight years that “every vote must count.” But has anyone ever stopped to notice that the very superdelegate system Democratic Party hacks devised was designed precisely to circumvent that principle? It’s the best evidence since Democrats tried to disenfranchise military voters that they don’t believe their own hype about counting every vote.

The superdelegate system was put into place to allow party bosses to manage just this kind of dilemma, where they discover late in the game — after most votes have been cast already — that their leading candidate might not be suitable or electable after all. The system would empower them to substitute their preferred candidate for the popularly chosen one.

The superdelegate process gets little attention when things go well, but now that it could be invoked to supersede the will of the popularly chosen pledged delegates, it’s a whole new ballgame.

If the candidate were the screaming Howard Dean, the superdelegates could dump him with much greater ease. But with Obama, the race issue necessarily comes into play.

If the pooh-bahs decide to throw Obama overboard after he has come so close to capturing the nomination, it is inconceivable to me that a large number of African-Americans — not to mention the far left of the party — won’t believe he was robbed, in no small part because of his race.

The nation can ill afford to endure such racial bitterness, but the Democratic Party may not survive with it. We all know the party depends on a statistically monolithic constituency in the African-American community, without which it couldn’t even be competitive in national elections.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario now in which Obama doesn’t capture the nomination, even if he continues to tank. If Hillary’s resurgence continues, she’ll have strong arguments in favor of her nomination, but they’ll have to fall on deaf ears.