Hillary's remaining advocates have said that she was only 'telling it like it is,' albeit with what they'd call a little awkward phrasing, when she told the AP last week that "hard working Americans, white Americans" will never vote for Obama. Okay. As long as we're telling it like is, let's go for it: Phrasing aside, when it comes to a avidly racist percentage of white working Americans she's right. But the problem is, a lot of those voters probably won't vote for a woman either. In fact, it could be the only way they'll vote for a woman is if her opponent's black (and she's not).
They're so reluctant, in fact, that 7% of the voters in West Virginia voted for John Edwards, who isn't even in the race. That fact is nothing short of stunning. Faced with a black man and a white woman, these voters chose a white man who isn't running. And these are Democrats. Among Southern whites, this makes them the Left.
No Democrat since 1916 has won the White House without West Virginia? Make that argument all you want. The fact is, Democrats kissed off West Virginia when they repudiated Edwards (and it's questionable whether he could've won it either).
Run a woman against a white male war hero, in places like West Virginia? It's not impossible (neither is a black man), but it's a definite long shot.
And, down South, Hillary's not just any woman. She's the woman who dissed Tammy Wynette. Have you heard Tammy sing? Southerners have -- and when that woman's voice breaks it's enough to bring a tear to your eye. If they're still holding a grudge over the Civil War, do you think they'll forget that Hillary seemed to mock them -- and Tammy -- in 1992?
(Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating the importance of the Tammy Wynette factor. But do you really think Hillary can carry West Virginia against a white male war hero?)
Democrats may not want Plan B -- the one that doesn't include states like West Virginia -- but they rejected Plan A back in February. The ongoing primary race has been good for Obama in the sense that it's forced him to deal with setbacks, address his weaknesses, and step up his game. But for some time now the choice has been between Plan B with all its liabilities, or Plan B with the Clintons amplifying its liabilities.
The "black candidate is unelectable" discussion is one Democrats usually hold in private. In public they're supposed to say :"If you won't vote for my opponent because of his race, I don't want your vote." (Wink, wink.) Hillary broke that rule, which was an offense to Democratic polity. Her candidacy was on life support after North Carolina. When she made that statement in the media, rather behind closed doors, she pulled the plug on it herself. She convinced a critical mass of superdelegates that her candidacy was too destructive.
To succeed in politics, you have to deal with ugly facts sometimes. Here's one ugly fact: Some voters won't vote for a black man. Here's another: Some of the same voters won't vote for a woman. It's foolish to think you can advance the rights of one group by inflaming prejudices against another. The best way to fight racism or sexism is to fight all prejudice.
The superdelegates haven't shut this thing down yet, because Democratic insiders don't want the Clintons to go away mad. But they sure want them to go away. They're hoping that the Clintons will have enough good will left toward the party that they'll dissuade Hillary's supporters from staying home in November. It's a tough calculation: End the race now and alienate the Clintons, or leave it open and hope no more damage is done.
Personally, I sure hope that works out. Obama can win in November by bringing in states like Colorado to replace ones like West Virginia. But amplifying his negatives and allowing Hillary's supporters to keep feeling mistreated undercuts his chances. And if Hillary continues to argue that seating the Florida and Michigan delegation is a "civil rights" question -- which is almost an obscene argument, given her tactics -- she runs the risk of splitting the party in two. Why? Because as flawed as that argument is, many of her supporters believe her.
Never mind that she signed a pledge against her current position -- and that, if she really thinks its a "civil rights" question, that was the moral equivalent of agreeing to uphold segregation. Never mind. Some of her supporters will still believe her. Only Hillary can persuade them of the truth, which is that she lost fair and square.
She can't win, but she can still do some serious damage. The result might be defeat in November.
And that would be kind of like a Tammy Wynette song: enough to bring a tear to your eye.
UPDATE: A number of people have written in with replies that are mostly on the "no, YOU'RE the racist" level. Most of them say "I'm calling all Southern whites bigots," or words to that effect. Several points: First, they're not very careful readers. In my first paragraph I said there is "an avidly racist percentage" of this group. Second, I didn't call them racist: they called themselves that. Roughly 1 in 5 white West Virginia voters said race played a strong role in their vote, and they went overwhelmingly against Obama (80% for Clinton). And if 1 in 5 said that, a lot more than that feel that way.
Clinton beat Obama by forty percentage points. 1 in 5 white voters = 20% of 95% of West Virginia voters, or nearly half of that Clinton lead. At that's a very understated number.
Yes, I'm speculating about the John Edwards voters. But to suggest they like his progressive policies, when he wasn't even running, seems far less plausible. But I hope they're right, as unlikely as that seems.
So, now we know I didn't call them racist, but merely echoed the polling data. But somebody did, most recently on a phone call with the Associated Press when she suggested these hardworking whites would never vote for her opponent. Live by the race-vote argument, fall by the race-vote argument. And to to express indignation at my observation while being fine with that AP interview shows very selective outrage, to say the least.
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