Sunday, December 30, 2007

Anti-Bush Sentiment Not Driving Primary Voters

Kevin Drum (via TalkLeft) peaked my interest this morning dissecting the "Anti-Clinton" motivations of Republicans, and the assumption that rebuking Bush is the only focus of the Democrat primary battles.

Whatever else you think about the Clinton vs. Obama question, this is almost certainly wrong. Among the activist liberal base — the people who are the loudest and angriest about what George Bush has done over the past seven years — support is way stronger for both Obama and John Edwards than for Hillary Clinton.
. . . Conservatives tend to be so blinded by their hatred for Hillary that they're convinced that her liberal supporters are also motivated by hatred. But they aren't. Among activist liberals, Hillary is mostly viewed as as smart and hardworking, but also triangulating and mainstream. She's the candidate of caution and moderation, not the candidate of the haters. The anti-Clinton fever swamp protests too much.
Outside of just getting a Democrat (any Democrat) into the white house, this is one of the most interesting dynamics of the way the primary campaigns have played out.

I understand the concerns many have of a Clinton White House, and as Bob writes, ramifications on our local politics could be devastating,
...most important, she hurts everyone down the ticket here in Utah. Her disapproval rating is in the mid-40s nationwide, and even lower in Utah. Having a strong name at the top of the ticket helps everyone from our party down the line.

And, here in Utah, that's what's important.

Because while our 5 Electoral Votes will (barring a miracle) go to the Republican, having someone to inspire Utah Democrats will drive them to the polls.
That is a reality for us, unfortunately. But nationally a Hillary presidency is a bit easier to swallow (if only as Plan B), and that is what is driving activists and voters to the polls, not simply a dislike of Bush, or even Hillary, but a concern for the future of what being a Democrat means.

Hatred for Bush has solidified into the idealistic notion that the general election is in the bag -- a dangerous attitude, but one that will most likely ring true this time -- for Democrats, and having good choices in the primaries has served as a catalyst for looking beyond merely passing the presidential baton in 2008 to focusing on a more long term future. Progressives will cast their vote with confidence that 2008 is ours for the taking, and moderation is not the goal.

We won't line up for the safest candidate, or one most likely snub Bush and the Republicans, deserving as they are. We did that in 2006, and Bush has only further chipped away at his party since. Further challenging their credibility are candidates like Romney and Giuliani (exampled in the Huckabee surge and McCain's rebirth) offering more of the same. The GOP is fractured by an inability to reconcile their current policies with the main tenets of conservative ideals.

Progressives will take a risk on Obama and Edwards, Dodd or Biden, because they can and because both candidates have shown the leadership that speaks to a new party identity. Should Hillary finish first, progressives, perhaps disappointed, will work just as hard for her, with a more concentrated effort to pull her to the left. Republicans don't see this.

Additionally, the question of who is most electable, the most important factor in primaries of the past 40 years, becomes secondary to who will redirect not only the country, but also the Democratic Party itself. Republicans' inability to see this motivation through their own distaste for seeing "Clinton" on White House Christmas cards again works in our favor, while progressives balk at Hillary's establishment ties, it is not a deal breaker for the movement, but something to fine-tune while she gets herself elected.

This is not to say that it doesn't matter which of them goes to the final cage match. Obama and Edwards have much more to offer progressives than Clinton, and without a fight. And that has become the most forceful engine of primary activism itself, not an anti-Bush sentiment. Thus our hands are not tied to the mainstream candidate, more so to capitalizing on the growing national distaste for Republican policy, which allows us to fine tune the progressive identity and a more broad plan for the future behind Obama or Edwards.

Progressives aren't working just for 2008, but 2012, and 2016 as well.


  1. Bush, of course, won't be on the ballot. I also note that none of the presidential candidates have pledged to investigate and prosecute Bush administration officials. Perhaps just as worrying, as far as I know none have disavowed the extra-Constitutional power Bush has arrogated to the Presidency.

    Months ago Stephen Colbert wondered if the candidates were running for President as defined in the Constitution, or if they wanted to have George Bush's job. Looks like they want to pick up where Bush left off, illegal domestic surveillance and all. Maybe ix-nay on the orture-tay.

  2. That's what is most unfortunate that Dodd didn't pick up the campaign to frame the argument a bit earlier. I admire what he's done with FISA, but where were the rest of them?