Sunday, January 27, 2008

A "B+" for South Carolina

Had John Edwards won the South Carolina primary, as he did in 2004, Obama come in second and Clinton a miserable third, South Carolina’s Democrats would deserve an “A+” and the world would forever be indebted to them. Had Obama come in first, Edwards second, and Clinton third, that would be worth an “A” or “A-” (depending on how far behind Edwards Hillary was. If it was far enough to hurt her significantly on Super Tuesday, that would certainly merit a full-fledged “A”.) The actual outcome was, of course, Obama, Clinton, Edwards. That was more or less expected and would therefore be worth no more than a “B” (given pervasive grade inflation), but for the fact that Obama trounced Slick Willy’s wife and Edwards didn’t come in too far behind. That wasn’t great, but it was pretty good. Thank you South Carolina. You deserve the plus.

Obama is, again, downplaying the significance of race and the Clintons, lately, have gone along, nominally. But the fact is that Obama did so well because he got about 80% of the black vote. Contrary to what I suggested yesterday, not that many African Americans in South Carolina do need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. But Obama didn’t do all that well with white voters. It could be different outside the South. The jury is still out on whether race will do Obama in. But even if it doesn’t, the danger of a full-fledged, unalloyed Clinton Restoration is far from vanquished. In the 90s, Bill Clinton completed Reagan’s work and set Cheney’s and Bush’s in motion. Who knows what horrors the next installment might bring. Now is therefore the time for all good women and men who will be voting on Super Tuesday to come to their senses about the Clintons. Despite the vacuity of his talk of “change,” the devil we don’t know is better than the devil we do. He may govern much as the Clintons would, but at least he is unlikely to bring as many of the old Clinton hands back into power as Hillary would. In theory, Clinton and Obama could still fight each other to exhaustion, leaving the progressive candidate, John Edwards, to pick up the pieces (if he can somehow stay in contention). But, in practice, “Why not the best?” is almost certainly a lost cause. However, thanks to South Carolina’s Democrats, “Why not the least bad?” is more than ever on the agenda. For that small but not insignificant victory, thanks again South Carolinians.

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