FROM JASON’S OWN PRIVATE SWITZERLAND —So coming off his stunning 8-point win in Iowa, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama let opponent Hillary Clinton slip by Tuesday with a 3-percent lead in New Hampshire — surprising all of us.
Clinton has come to be viewed, even among the anti-Bush-ite youth voters, somewhat of a frumpy, cold, clumsy pariah on the campaign trail. Her demeanor and years of being viewed as her husband’s taskmistress have set even the energized youth voters distinctly against her.
The exit polling shows what I think is so damned interesting.
MSNBC’s statistics throughout the day screamed exactly why Hillary was able to slide by Obama — the two have mirror-opposite support bases within the party. Clinton’s percentage of votes by age breakdown only escalated among older and older voters, while the stats showed Obama getting an inversely proportional response among younger and younger brackets.
And we all know who turns out in bigger droves when the polls open — the old fogeys.
There are a couple of things that bother me about this Democratic showdown (forget the Republicans for now. They’re not going to take the White House this term anyway, thanks to 8 years of sabotage by GWB).
The first is that 2008 will be as much about which type of “minority” (even though women actually outnumber men by about 2 percent of the population in the U.S.) is selected as about any issue. Look at how the masses are categorizing the two Dem front-runners. Will this be the year that we have our first black president, or the year that we have our first female president?
It irks me. Having darker skin or breasts isn’t going to help either Obama or Clinton do a better job in office. These two factors should be non-issues, especially when we have such larger ones to consider — inflation, the bankruptcy crisis, the health care coverage hole, rampant immigration without naturalization keeping pace, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, non-renewable energy. Yet we have people lining up to support one or the other candidate based on obscure racial or gender guilt, and that doesn’t help anyone.
It is interesting to note, however, from a strictly historical perspective that the U.S. embraced African American voting rights before it did the suffrage movement. It will be a fun academic exercise to see whether the same priority/coincidence follows true here.
The second thing that bothers me about this election is the unbounded enthusiasm that the 18-32 (or so) voters have for Obama. Sure, he’s charismatic. I like him. I would gladly toss back a couple of beers with him. But it seems that his gravitas is based more on his attitude, cultured speaking, and early grassroots web campaign than on — once again — any issue(s). Frankly, I don’t think a lot of casual supporters really understand his platform (or the reasons behind their distaste of Clinton’s, either).
Let’s take a look at Clinton and Obama and see exactly what they believe.
– Voted against the flag-burning ban
– Wants to include sexual orientation in anti-descrimination laws
– Supports charter schools and privatization
– Wants to invest in alternative energy research
– Insists on placing human rights mandates on China to continue trade
– Recognizes morality is the issue with gun violence
– Made several smart Medicare expansion votes
– Voted against extending Patriot Act’s wire-tapping provision
– Supports better equipment for troops
– Opposes federal spending reductions
– Supports affirmative action
– Voted against CAFTA
– Supports strong gun control measures
– Pro-universal health care
– Voted to re-authorize Patriot Act
– Pro-minimum wage increases
– Pro-Christian; supports “call to evangelize in politics”
– Voted for giving illegal aliens health and social security coverage (without citizenship)
– Voted against repealing death tax
– Wants to expand welfare state
– Opposes gay marriage, but supports civil unions
– Sympathy for drug use
– Wants free public college for B-average students and above
– Supports stem cell research
– Calls for tax cuts and balanced budget
– Pushing for Privacy Bill of Rights
– Voted against flag-burning ban
– Voted to expand cell phone wiretapping
– Supports requiring DNA testing for all federal executions
– Pro-charter schools
– Pro-Kyoto Treaty
– Pro-campaign finance reform
– Opposes e-mail tax
– Criticizes Iraq war management; supports phased withdrawal
– Anti-school vouchers
– Believes media (television and video games) causes violence
– Calls for increasing strength and size of government
– Pro-universal health care
– Voted against medical lawsuit reform
– Voted to renew the Patriot Act
– Wants to give illegal alients social security benefits
– Supports minimum wage increases
– Opposes tax reform
– Supports creation of special “drug courts”
– Wants to force oil companies to fund energy research
– Supports Star Wars-esque missile defense
– Still refuses to apologize for Iraq vote, but admitted in April that it was a mistake
– Touts values-based welfare entitlements
I guess my point is this: I don’t think it’s any more acceptable for the American political left to have a blind devotion to a candidate than I think it’s okay for the American right. The Christian fundamentalist movement gets a lot of negative heat (and rightfully so) for latching on to ultra-conservative dogma; I think those of us measuring the Democrats this season should be held to the same standards.
We have to choose based on qualification and platform, not the better dresser, the better personality, or the candidate that late-night hosts steer us toward.
NOTE: I already linked to it, but I feel obliged to mention that the sourcing for these platforms comes from OnTheIssues.org, a trusted non-partisan vote-tracking and statement-tracking political analysis group.
ANDREW’S EDIT: I recommend my goto site for political analysis Opencongress.org