Lenin On Clinton/Obama
It's becoming clearer and clearer that, bar a complete diasaster, Barack Obama will become the next POTUS. Rasmussen's daily Presidential tracking poll has him up 8 against McCain. This increase in his support since last week (when they were tied) is a result of increased support for Obama amongst Democrats. The end of Clinton's campaign is helping Democratic party identifiers to coalesce around the presumptive nominee of the party. Given the current ratio of Democrats to Republicans, Obama only needs to mobilize the Democratic base to a sufficient degree and he wins.
But Lenin is not enthusiastic about the prospect. He says that Hillary would be a bad choice for VP, which I agree with. He then says that Hillary "commanded" the white working class vote. He lists some of the "overwhelmingly white" states she won - West Virginia, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania. He claims this can't be explained purely by racism (a point I'll come back to) and instead it can be explained by Clinton's "populist" economic rhetoric as opposed to Obama's "neoliberalism".
Obama won numerous poor and very white states - Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Montana, Oregon. Most of the states Lenin listed are a part of the "Appalachian" midwest, and populated with the "tough" descendants of Scots-Irish immigrants. They are states with a history of racial tension, arising either from the trauma of desegregation (like West Virginia) or from acrimonious economic competition in the 70's (like Ohio). These racial tensions have been exarcebated by the process of deindustrialization that took place in these states under Reagan and Clinton. This clearly hurt Obama badly in these states. In West Virginia, 19% of white voters said they voted against Obama "partly because of his race". In Kentucky, this numer was 17%. These are the people, in other words, who openly admitted to pollsters that they were racist. The number of racist votes is likely to be higher still. It would be a good guess to say that up to a third of Clinton votes in these states were explicitly racist - i.e against Obama because he's black - in nature. Clinton did not have play upon fear of the black peril - these people fear the black peril constantly, instinctially - it's what consumed their parents' lives and it's what consumes their own lives.
In a state like Montana, which has an African-American population of 0.5%, situated a way up in the north, the ripples from civil rights and deindustrialization never really made an impact. Obama won this state, filled with its non-latte drinking, quite poor white folks, by sixteen percentage points. Therefore, it was not the "whiteness" or the "working class" nature of states that made them favour of Clinton, it was a combination of poverty and decline and a history of racial tension and racism.
Lenin also claims that Obama is a "neoliberal" candidate. I'm not entirely sure what this means with Lenin. In a discussion in his comments board some time ago, he claimed that the SNP government in Scotland that has recently scrapped fees, reintroduced grants, ended PFI, opposed Trident, restarted social housing projects and and made moves to fund local government through an income-based tax was also "neo-liberal". His proof? They've cut corporation tax. One wonders what usefulness this term has when it covers everyone from Alex Salmond of Nicholas Sarkozy. But, let's take Lenin at his word. Is this true about Obama?
Well, as I said in my post a few weeks back, Obama is not a radical. He supports more tax on those earning more than $100,000 a year (this would be called "Old Labourism" here), a hike on the capital gains tax (which is not popular), he supports "taking back the department of labor for labor", raising the minimum wage, "renegotiating" NAFTA, more pay for teachers and, of course, he's ended the practice of the Democratic Party being funded by Federal Lobbyists. Lenin pointed out that Clinton supported the (John McCain) policy of freezing the federal gas tax for the summer. Obama does not and for good reason - it was and is a pointless gimmick. It would save your average American 30 cence a day. While the price of oil rockets up, any savings would likely be completely neutralized. It's a crap idea.
Lenin is right that this policy and others helped to create an "impression" that Clinton was to the left of Obama on the economy - but she wasn't. The most genuinely progressive Democratic candidate, outside of Kucinich, John Edwards endorsed Obama for a reason. The "rustbelt" trade unions like the United Mine Workers and the United Steelworkers endorsed Obama for a reason. These people couldn't afford another Clinton presidency.
Lenin says that he thinks Obama will be just as bad as Clinton (Bill) when gets into the White House. Of course, this is pure speculation. What I will say is that Obama, presuming he's elected, will almost certainly be working with a Senate and House packed with Democrats. He will be elected to euphoria around the country and a genuine feeling of popular power - even revolt. These forces will be hard to contain.