Dems still divided

By Dan Streib

Sen. Clinton’s speech at the Democratic convention this week was remarkable in its ability to paint her candidacy as a part of the same Democratic cause that Obama champions. However, she completely failed in converting the Hillary voters to Obamaism. The reason? She didn’t target the moderates.

Last year, I wrote a piece outlining a split in the Democratic Party that centered primarily on the personas and methods of Clinton and Barack.

It explained that there were two groups of Democrats dissatisfied with President Bush: those in need of counseling about how America can restore its image in the world (Barrakophiles), and those who could care less about such idealistic concerns but demanded competence from their government (Clintonites).

Despite all of the analysis that occurred in that column, that prior explanation of the Democratic divide no longer cuts it. And neither do many others.

Take last week’s USA Today poll showing that more than half of Clinton supporters weren’t yet sold on Obama as evidence of this deeper problem. You’d think differing ways of stating the same positions wouldn’t matter that much.

If experience and competence were the problem instead, then wouldn’t Biden provide the same reassurance to donkeys as Cheney did in 2000 to elephants? The devil’s advocate would state that an experienced veep might serve only to further illuminate the inexperience of the man on top of the ticket.

But honestly, if the divide between Hillary and Barrack supporters came down to “competence and experience” vs. “youth and change,” the divide should erase in general when larger party divides come to prominence. And the selection of a veep that’s comfort food to the Democratic faithful should help bridge the theoretically smaller intra-party divide.

Problem is, the divide of the donkeys has not gone away. Since the selection of Biden, but before the beginning of the convention, a Gallup news poll showed McCain has taken the lead, 46 percentage points to 44. Although the same poll now shows Obama leading, likely to a convention bump, he wouldn’t have had to worry about daily poll numbers at all if he had more Clinton supporters.

That there is doubt in this race at all might seem like a bad sign in a year in which more people have identified themselves as Democrats than ever before, but the extra donkeys are actually the problem.

What was painfully apparent to many self-labeled conservatives (who overwhelmingly selected Romney over McCain in the Republican primary), is that the primary voters aren’t always partisans. Although some moderates vote solely in the general, some vote in the primaries and even consider themselves Democratic or Republican. And why shouldn’t they?

The real divide in the Democratic Party is between the liberals and moderates. The fact that there are more “Democrats” than in a long while, is partly due to more moderates invading the Party of the Donkey.

These moderates who swung for Hillary aren’t necessarily distressed over the loss of European support for American policy abroad. But they’re sick of Bush and want someone with competence and experience. Hence the high turnout for the hated and polarizing former first lady. As a workhorse senator with exposure to politics longer than her senatorial career, she exuded a know-how attitude rarely found in any but the oldest political hands.

But these moderates see in Obama exactly what he is: a position-changing Chicago pol who writes and speaks beautifully but rarely articulates solid plans in front of audiences. He just says “change.” These moderates want a president who can actually re-articulate his plans aloud.

And these moderates aren’t stupid. They know that Obama’s ads accusing McCain of cozying up to big oil are total lies. They know that McCain’s numerous fights against big corporations are the reasons many conservatives loathe him. They weren’t born yesterday, even if many Obama supporters were. They know that, in reality, McCain is one of them – even if he sits slightly on the opposite side of the aisle.

And no amount of deception from the Obama camp will ever change that.

Dan is junior in political science and didn’t know “Obama” was a Greek name.