Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Machine-made Victory

Super Tuesday: Clinton may have won New York, but the breadth of Obama's support was heartening
Ian Williams

February 6, 2008 4:18 AM | Guardian

With minutes of the last lever on New York's voting machines clunking over, all the agencies were announcing for certain a Clinton victory. It was based on exit polls, but the media presented it with such absolute certitude that it smacked of a North Korean general election result announced the day before the vote.

In fact, it was hard to choose. With a hundred million plus dollars each in their campaign war chests, one could not predict victory on the generally accepted (eccentric millionaires like Forbes and Huffington apart) grounds of who spent the most on advertising.

Never mind the voting, or even the fundraising, it is fashion week in New York, and the campaign was about style rather than content. And no wonder Obama was gaining. He certainly has more style than Clinton, whose marriage did not endow her with her husband's unsurpassed worldly wealth of charisma.

On the streets of New York, young and enthusiastic Obama supporters certainly outnumbered Clintonistas, and the Calypso King of the Caribbean, the Mighty Sparrow weighed in on his behalf with a jaunty lyric, "Barack the Magnificent" whose chorus

"Barack! Barack! He is fighting for openness and honest government.
Barack is doggedly defiant: phenomenal strength, and wisdom beyond comment,"

made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in scansion.

In the smoke-filled rooms of the New York Democratic establishment, Clinton had it sewn up, at least in public with Charley Rangel, dean of the Congressional Black Caucus enthusiastically supporting her even if his constituents voted entirely differently. And there are certain incumbent New York advantages such as some all-Hasidic districts which pull in 100% of the return for her.

It had been noticed that Governor Elliot Spitzer, despite a formal obeisance to the Clinton camp, was somewhat missing in action as the vote approached. Perhaps he was just repaying Hillary for her quickness in repudiating his driving licences for illegals initiative, or maybe it was just nervous apprehension that Obama would continue rising, but he managed to screw his support to the sticking place and turned up with all the other Dem pols to the Clinton victory party.

Yes, Clinton won New York, but it was her home state and with the full support of the machine behind her it was no landslide. Similarly in New Jersey, the machine delivered, but in Connecticut, where the machine does not rule, Obama won.

His entirely respectable showing guarantees him a significant share of the New York delegation and the implication that many white Democrats supported him was substantiated in other wins beyond the Confederacy.

In the end, he clearly does represent change to a lot of voters, and his showing should reassure some tactical voters who wonder how he would fare in a general election. While we know that Clinton is in the pocket of the corporate interests who have bankrolled her so handsomely, Obama is still an unknown quantity. They have also been writing cheques for him on a munificent scale. One only hopes that he does not disappoint his enthusiastic supporters by staying bought.

But whatever his policies, his victory would mean not just an end to the Bush era, but to the ghosts of Jim Crow that have been the basis for Republican victories ever since the party of Lincoln played the race card in the old Confederacy - and, one might add, Rudi Giuliani's mayoralty in New York City, which is why the breadth of his support there is so heartening.

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