Friday, 16 November 2012
Black and Blue
While obviously bemoaning the specific circumstances, there are many, many very good reasons to be glad that Bobby Kennedy never became the President of the United States. But his proposed black-blue coalition now constitutes, if not the national majority, then certainly the Democratic Party's electoral majority, as surely as does the coalition eventually put together by George McGovern, first through his Commission, and then at the 1972 Presidential Election.
The Democrats would not and could not have held the Presidency, nor held and increased their control of the Senate, without the votes of a coalition of white liberals and non-white ethnic minorities. Nor would or could they have done so without a coalition of blacks and blue-collar whites, whether white Southerners, Northern "white ethnics", or those in the traditions of the Farmer-Labor Parties and the Nonpartisan League in the West. The first of those has consistently been treated as the Prodigal Son, appearing on the ticket in 1976, 1980, 1988, 1992 (both places), 1996 (both places), 2000 and 2004. The second has been treated, at best, as the Prodigal Son's brother. The third has been treated as, if anything, the fatted calf.
The present partnership of President and Vice-President embodies the partnership between the blacks and the white ethnics whom Kennedy, being one himself, mostly had in mind, as surely as that in 1960 embodied the partnership between the white ethnics and the South. At the same time, Obama's mixed background, and his looser ties to the black church than those of earlier black leaders, manifest the changing racial composition of America, while it would once have counted against Biden that his wife was not a Catholic, even that she was not an Irish Catholic. In their Catholicism and their Orthodoxy, the white ethnics are the antidotes to an excessively pro-Israeli, and extremely right-wing Israeli, stance that is in any case an aberration in American politics and which causes the terrorism problem; Arab-Americans, a high proportion of whom are ancient indigenous Christians, are already often classified as white ethnics.
The first black President is a Democrat. The first, and to date only, Catholic President was a Democrat. The first Jewish President and the first Hispanic President will undoubtedly be Democrats. Why not also the first Mormon President? The Mormon vote is now up for grabs. Scott Howell's 30 per cent in Utah was more than creditable against an incumbent quite as incumbent as Orrin Hatch, and that on a ticket including Mitt Romney, while Howell would have beaten a Tea Party nominee such as Mike Lee, who is up for re-election in 2016. Unlike Romney, Harry Reid does not derive an income from the performance of abortion.
Speaking of abortion, while never a pro-life stalwart, Biden could not have been the running mate at any time between 1980, or possibly even 1976, and 2008. He spent 36 years in the Senate, well into the present century, voting to overturn Roe v Wade by constitutional amendment, voting year on year to prevent federal funding of abortion, voting against rape and incest exceptions until Henry Hyde himself was forced to accept them rather than be defeated by the Clintons and their allies (to this day, Biden has never cast a vote in favour of such exceptions), voting to ban partial-birth abortion, voting to overturn Clinton's vetoes of such bans, and voting to recognise infants who survived abortion as fully protected legal persons. Joe Donnelly picked up Indiana even though its Presidential vote switched from blue to red. Mark Clayton's 30 per cent in Tennessee was just stunning. Again, he would have beaten a Tea Party candidate.
The ways of consolidating this progress have long been proposed by my friend Mark Stricherz and others: requiring primaries rather than caucuses, allowing Independents to vote in them, holding the first five or six primaries in the five or six tightest states the previous time (which might very well include Iowa and New Hampshire), abolishing superdelegates, and abolishing all delegate quotas based on sex, age or ethnicity.