Tuesday, June 03, 2008

1968 Again

White voters and the Democratic primary | Salon News

Teixeira: [T]he Democratic Party has a sort of image in certain areas of the country among certain voters, particularly downscale voters, that's somewhat unfavorable. There's a certain cultural distance there, a sense of an elitism in the national party that Obama probably connects to in their minds...

Wilentz: And it also goes back to the split in the Democratic Party. Which is also historical, it goes back 40 years. And we all know about this. It goes back to '68 in some ways, and it's been aggravated ever since. It's the old division between the "new politics" wing of the party and the "traditional working class" base of the party. We see that every four years and I think we may be seeing that again. But that's not strictly correlated to race by any means.

Schaller: [E]very four years, the candidate who is the new politics, new left darling, whether it's Howard Dean or whether it's Bill Bradley or whether it's Gene McCarthy, has historically fallen on the shoals of the white working-class vote because that candidate had, to put it as bluntly as possible, people like me, college-educated white people who live in urban areas with Ph.Ds, right. I'm sort of your quintessential -- and probably other people on the call, I don't want to speak for them, are quintessential Deaniac or Clean for Gene kind of voters...Of course, the media is drawn from this community.

I'm just perverse. I suspect that for several weeks if not longer the whole primary campaign has been staged, like pro-wrestling, to get publicity and get Democrats registered to vote. Now as the last act opens it will be interesting to see what Clinton's play will be.

If my hypothesis is correct, she will not concede outright but make some gracious gesture, affirm her commitment to do anything it takes to beat McCain in November, and ask for time to reflect. An immediate concession wouldn't be plausible, and wouldn't give supporters a chance to wind down emotionally--she'd lose them. And the Democratic Party might lose them too. It has to be carefully orchestrated and timed.

I'm also perverse because I'm one of those "college-educated white people who live in urban areas with Ph.Ds"--though I don't think my urban area has a Ph.D.--but just can't stand Obama or his supporters. I couldn't stand Gene McCarthy either. And I must be really perverse. I didn't much like Hillary at first--I'd still rather have Edwards. It was her street-fighting and dirty politics that really won me over. I don't trust the "new politics"--the idiot idealism of a privileged class who never really felt the shoe pinch, the prissiness of an elite who can afford to be virtuous, who can afford to worry about "process," who can afford to see visions and dream dreams.

What happened in 1968? For the first time, colleges were flooded with large groups of students who shouldn't have been there. They had no academic interests or professional ambitions and should have been doing honest manual labor. They were dissatisfied because they didn't belong in college but interpreted their malaise as the insight that times were out of joint. They had no ambition and regarded that as a virtuous rejection of the Establishment. They marched in the streets because they had nothing better to do.


Scott Edelman said...

The street-fighting and dirty politics that won you over to Clinton was exactly what soured me on her! I never grew to like Obama more; I just found that I disliked her more with each passing day.

If I'd wanted a candidate of street-fighting and dirty politics—I'd be a Republican!

H. E. said...

If I'd wanted a candidate of street-fighting and dirty politics—I'd be a Republican!

And support their voodoo economics, privatization of everything, faith-based initiatives, war-mongering, anti-environmentalism and the whole conservative package?

This just illustrates the reordering of priorities in the Democratic party, and in fact the redefinition of what it was to be "Left" that started in 1968, alienated the working class, and turned the Democrats into the Mommy Party. In contemporary usage "Left" now seems to mean idealistic, nice, fastidious, environmentally-friendly, anti-war, if possible vegetarian and, oh yes, somewhere down the line in favor of universal health care. In fact, it seems to have become more of a sensibility or ethos than a political agenda: the ewig weiblich.

Maybe "Left" and "Right" don't mean anything any more and need to be retired in favor of some other dichotomy. How about Tax-and-Spend Welfare-Statism vs. Cut-Throat Drudge-and-Consume Capitalism?

Now maybe you're claiming that honest politics and niceness are more likely to bring about a cradle-to-grave social democratic welfare state than street-fighting and dirty politics. That's an empirical conjecture and my educated guess is otherwise. Politics is rough and dirty--life is rough and dirty, and most people have got to fight for all they're worth, no holds barred to achieve even modest goals. So my bet is that the most effective way to get that social democratic welfare state is by street-fighting and dirty politics.

When the Democratic party went all nice and squishy, idealistic, dovish and environmentally-friendly, it started losing. And Republicans had a free hand to dismantle all the progressive programs of the New Deal--and the programs of the Great Society that Lyndon Johnson, a street-fighting, arm-twisting, filthy dirty machine politician rammed through.