Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why the Republicans may win the US Presidency

The front runners for Democratic candidate have always been Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama; third place man John Edwards, despite innovative campaigning methods and experiments in second life, barely gets a look in. The reason his wife Elizabeth happily states is "We can't make John black. We can't make him a woman... Those things get you a lot of press." But now the race is coming to the most important point, Edwards is campaigning 'on the stump' telling Democrat voters that there is unlikely to be a Democrat president if Clinton or Obama get in. Taylor Marsh, hinting that such claims are racist and sexist, though acknowledging Edwards is neither argues:

"what he's saying on the stump is meant to convince primary voters that he can appeal to Bubba; someone who isn't going to vote for a woman or a black man, but might cast a vote for Edwards. Let's face it, Bubba could never handle a woman with her finger on the nuclear trigger; as for a black man, forget it. It's a strategy to convince primary voters that Edwards can capture votes Clinton and Obama can't, which will lead him to the White House"

Whether this kind of dog-whistle campaigning, sending out a message that those who need to hear will hear the loudest, may well be failing given that his opponents and most of the politically aware in the US know about it. But there is the question of whether this could win him the nomination.

In many ways it is a good thing that the race and gender question is public and not hidden by a spiral of political correctness that suppresses such issues. It is a real question in US politics whether 'Bubba' will elect anyone but a white male, and I imagine that question would also rise in UK politics and politics across northern Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps the gender issue is not as great, there are many precedents of female leaders, but race remains a tricky and unpredictable issue in the US and elsewhere.

Edwards meanwhile is walking a fine line. On the one hand he states on mass media that "Anybody who's considering not voting for Sen. Obama because he's black or for Sen. Clinton because she's a woman, I don't want their vote," and "I think the most-electable candidate is the one with the best ideas" but some subliminal and less widely mediated messages are suggesting, as one African-American Democrat camapigner argues, "that when Democrats make a selection, they realize that the world is not perfect and they have to consider the long haul."

It adds a very different dimension to the campaign and readings of the outcome, and raises a new debate that could obscure the politics of the campaign. These factors, and the real truth that Bubba may decide the election, could give Republicans the political agenda - so they can talk policies while Democrats tiptoe around race and gender - and the Presidency as Bubba looks for the guy that looks like him.

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