With increasing frequency political observers are asking exactly what role race is playing in the Democratic primary. Sure, Obama enjoys the overwhelming support of black voters, and it has been drummed into our heads that Hillary has the loyalty of many "working class ...
With increasing frequency political observers are asking exactly what role race is playing in the Democratic primary. Sure, Obama enjoys the overwhelming support of black voters, and it has been drummed into our heads that Hillary has the loyalty of many "working class whites." But Obama's frequent victories in lily-white states complicate the inclination to view the contest purely in black and white terms. Now, In These Times' David Sirota has entered into the debate with a convincing article on what he dubs "the race chasm."
Here's Sirota's graph illustrating the "chasm." It includes the 33 states where the primary results weren't significantly affected by homestate allegiances, John Edwards' candidacy, or heavy Latino votes:
And here's Sirota's explanation:
When you chart Obama’s margin of victory or defeat against the percentage of African-Americans living in that state, a striking U trend emerges. That precipitous dip in Obama’s performance in states with a big-but-not-huge African-American population is the Race Chasm—and that chasm is no coincidence.
(More after the jump ...)
On the left of the graph, among the states with the smallest black population, Obama has destroyed Clinton. With the candidates differing little on issues, this trend is likely due, in part, to the fact that black-white racial politics are all but non-existent in nearly totally white states [...]
On the right of the graph among the states with the largest black populations, Obama has also crushed Clinton. Unlike the super-white states, these states—many in the Deep South—have a long and sordid history of day-to-day, black-white racial politics, with Richard Nixon famously pioneering Republican’s “southern strategy” to maximize the racist segregationist vote in general elections. “But in the Democratic primary the black vote is so huge [in these states], it can overwhelm the white vote,” says Thomas Schaller, a political science professor at the University of Maryland—Baltimore. That black vote has gone primarily to Obama, helping him win these states by big margins.
It is in the chasm where Clinton has consistently defeated Obama. These are geographically diverse states from Ohio to Oklahoma to Massachusetts where racial politics is very much a part of the political culture, but where the black vote is too small to offset a white vote racially motivated by the Clinton campaign’s coded messages and tactics.
According to Sirota, Clinton is becoming more and more dependent on fanning the flames of racial politics in these "race chasm" states as she tries to make the case that she is the more viable general election candidate:
In trying to maximize the Race Chasm by focusing on race-tinged issues, Clinton is tacitly making an “electability” argument to superdelegates. (This is not a stupid strategy in courting officials who are all, in one way or another, election-focused political operatives.) Part of that “electability” argument hinges on portraying Obama as “unelectable”—and what better way to do that than stoke as many race-focused controversies as possible? It is a standard primary tactic: Launch a line of attack—in this case, the “Wright controversy”—and then claim the attack will be used by Republicans to defeat an opponent—in this case Obama—should he become the general election candidate. Of course, it doesn’t hurt Clinton’s cause that, close to half of the superdelegates are white, according to The Politico.
Read the whole article here.