Obama's Problem With the Rest of AmericaDespite what many of Barack Obama's supporters are now saying (or thinking) about him being the frontrunner in the fall, the fact of the matter is that if we make the assumption that the Democratic intra-party political situation remains as it is and Mr. Obama should emerge after June or the convention as the party nominee, he emerges as the weak candidate of an even weaker political formation:
All of this poses a challenge to Mr. Obama as he seeks to move the Clinton
wing of the party beyond with the Clinton era without offending Mrs. Clinton’s
considerable base of supporters. Exit polls in Indiana and North Carolina once
again suggested just how cleaved the party is between young and old, white and
black, lower-income and upper income.
“It’s going to be hard,” said Bob Kerrey, a former senator from Nebraska, and a supporter of Mrs. Clinton.
“Part of what I’ve seen in this campaign is how difficult it is to unite this
party: To unite voters in West Virginia with Democratic [read:
African-American] voters in South Central Los Angeles. That is what he has
to do and what is going to be hard.”
“He has to learn to set aside grievances; and there are going to be
plenty of them,” Mr. Kerrey said. “Can we disagree without being disagreeable?
The answer is, no. We get disagreeable. And this has been a disagreeable
Mr. [Gary] Hart recalled that after a similarly divisive primary
battle against Walter F. Mondale in 1984, he made a point of throwing all his effort into trying to get his supporters behind Mr. Mondale. In that case, Mr. Hart was more equivalent to Mr. Obama than Mrs. Clinton, having drawn new voters into the
“I went to the platform and moved his nomination by acclamation,” Mr.
Hart recalled. “And then I went out and did over 40 campaign events for him on
my own. And I was not able to move the younger and independent voters, as the
results made clear.”
In Barack Obama's case, he must move white working-class voters into his corner, and many of these people have sworn they will never cast a vote for him. I've spoken to several professing life-long Democrats who have told me they will be voting Republican for the first time in their lives in the fall-it is the only protest they have against what they view as the betrayal of Obama's nomination. The Democrats' great problem is not that Barack Obama isn't "one of us," but that he can't make the claim that he ever was-unlike many of our former Presidents. Barack Obama went spent a good part of his life in Indonesia, went to high school in Honolulu, and has been a college professor. It isn't that he is an academic that is the problem-it is that this is all that he has ever been.
Obama cannot say, as former candidates and presidents have been able to do, that he came from among the masses of Middle America. He can't say that he was a farmer and son of a farmer from Independence, Missouri who got into politics serving as a judge on the Jackson County Court. Barack Obama can't rightly claim that he came from a town called Dixon, Illinois and was a lifeguard on the Rock River, who came into his career by calling Chicago Cubs baseball games by telegraph. Obama wouldn't sound the least bit believable if he told Middle America that he was a peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia who went to the Naval Academy and Georgia Tech, served on a nuclear submarine, and became a nuclear engineer-and ran for the State Senate. Obama's father was not a blacksmith and farm store owner. He wasn't born on a small farm on the Pedernales River. Obama can't even claim to be from a place called Hope, or to have made his way in the Texas oil business. While presidential narratives are different, and many do belie a privileged upbringing, most invariably have some tie to Middle America-and many of our modern Presidents did begin, if they did not remain, with humble small-town origins.
The blue-collar voters that Barack Obama needs to win over understand the farmer from Jackson County and they can identify with Dixon, Illinois. Many of these people certainly understand the world of Plains, Georgia, or the ramshackle farmhouse on the Padernales, or the little store owner's son who made good and was elected President. These are people that blue-collar voters understand because at some point in their lives, the men who had these stories as part of their narrative can say "I am one of you-we are from the same stock." Barack Obama cannot make that claim with any credibility.
This by itself should not be held against Obama, as he has no control over who his parents are or even how he was raised. Despite the fact that much has been revealed about Obama, there is still so much about him that is a mystery-and the fact that he has spent so much of his life in academia (something many of the men of the narratives would have scorned-especially Truman and Reagan) makes him all the more divorced from the reality of the working-class whites he absolutely must have in his corner to win. Barack Obama doesn't understand White Pine, Tennessee, or Postville, Iowa, or Douglas, Georgia, or Midland, Texas. He only knows what he's read about the people who live there.
This reality will get him slaughtered in November.
As for "Operation Chaos", what does Rush Limbaugh now say? Well, he's called it off:
"I now believe he would be the weakest of the Democrat
He added: "He can get effete snobs, he can get
wealthy academics, he can get the young, and he can get the black vote, but
Democrats do not win with that."
On that score, Rush Limbaugh is exactly right. The one group of voters that Barack Obama must win in order to be successful, he will lose in spades...and if he does, he will be the biggest flop in the history of the modern Democratic Party.