Monday, March 24, 2008

Tribal Warfare

the Reverend [Wright] turned Obama — in the minds of some working-class and crossover white voters — from “a Harvard law graduate into a South Side Black Panther.”

--Maureen Dowd 2.23.08

I have just learned a new word, “deracinated.” Its meanings: “1. To be pulled out by the roots; uprooted. 2. To be displaced from one's native or accustomed environment.”

We are in a remarkable election campaign. It is so hard-fought that already we are at the raw tribal warfare stage close elections don’t see until their final days. But in the current campaign, as her own people have said, Clinton long ago tossed the kitchen sink at Obama, during the run-up to March 4th’s Super Tuesday II.

Still earlier, Clinton had seemed the inevitable winner. Women are 60% of the Democratic Party, and dominate the party’s anti-war, big-spending-at-home agenda. Democrats are a coalition of special interests, with women special interest No. 1. Clinton was the right Democrat for the times.

But Obama ended up corralling the most powerful part of the Democratic constituency—its liberal elite. The elite works harder, works smarter, cares more and spends more. I have argued that among cause-driven liberals Obama has the better cause; blacks win hands down any “most victimized” face-off with women.

After throwing the kitchen sink at Obama and still trailing, Clinton has now moved her campaign beyond the elite to working-class whites, using behind-the-scenes the argument that no black person tied to someone who talks like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright will ever be elected president. Hers is the basest form of tribal warfare, implicitly asking for votes “‘cause I’m white.”

Obama has responded by refusing to be deracinated (see above) from his black constituency. He declined to throw the Rev. Wright “under the bus.” He knows support for Wright will cost him white votes. But Obama realizes he must be true to his base, the party’s liberal elite, which might throw him “under the bus” if he were to betray his black origins. Obama intends to remain authentic, and keep his cred. If he loses because he stood up for a black brother, wrong though that brother’s words were, then so be it.

Clinton also seems to be authentic. Her tribe believes that turning the world right side up, having our female majority finally rule, is an end that justifies drawing on white origins to defeat a black man. Her tactical choice, while it will cost Clinton further liberal support, should help with the larger white electorate.

People call McCain a maverick. But for Republicans, he’s the real McCoy. It’s artificial to have Democrats running on their military records, as Gore and especially Kerry did. Republicans are the party of national security, closely linked to the military and the only party truly worried about enemies abroad. “Law and order” today includes a strong military presence overseas, one unafraid to carry the fight to our enemies. McCain is the Republicans’ man.

Obama. McCain. Clinton. Each an authentic leader for America’s tribal warfare.

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