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The real message of the Iowa caucus yesterday was that the long-operative Clintonian/Democratic Leadership Council assumption that the independent or unaffiliated voter bloc is composed of conservative-leaning, dim-witted and easily manipulated people has got it all wrong.
In fact, in Iowa, where unaffiliated voters are free to participate in either a Democratic or Republican caucus, 41 percent of those people voted not for the conservative, tough-talking “centrist” Hillary Clinton. They voted instead for the black, nominally anti-war candidate, Barack Obama. Another significant percentage of independents went for another progressive-sounding candidate, John Edwards. Clinton only got an embarrassing 17 percent of the unaffiliated vote.
The implications of this failure on her part are enormous when it comes to next November’s general election.
If Democratic voters in the upcoming primaries, especially in states like Pennsylvania, where independents are excluded from the voting, end up giving the nomination to Clinton, she will almost certainly end up forfeiting much of the independent vote, just as both Al Gore and John Kerry did in the last two presidential elections.
The reality is that many, if not a majority of unaffiliated voters are not at all conservative (or dim-witted). What they are is cynical about the current state of Tweedle-Dum/Tweedle Dee politics in America. They see both the Democratic and Republican parties as being of, by and for the rich and often they don’t even see the point in voting. (They are, in other words, in many ways more politically savvy than many registered Democratic voters, who refuse to acknowledge this reality!)
Because of the disastrous course of the last seven years under the Bush/Cheney administration, these independents are willing, as they showed in 2006, to give it a shot and vote for Democrats IF (and that word has to be capitalized and put in italics for emphasis) the Democrats will stand for something more than just Republicanism with frills. Exit polls in November 2006 showed that these voters (and a majority of Democratic voters) were looking for Democrats to stand up forcefully for the Constitution, and to put an end to the Iraq War.
They were double-crossed. The Democratic Congressional leadership, under the Clintonesque direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have done none of those things, choosing instead to simply pretend to be an opposition, while actually doing nothing on either front.
It’s an approach that Hillary Clinton clearly would continue to follow if she were somehow to manage to get herself elected to the presidency: a fawning obeisance to the wishes of corporate America and Wall Street, continued foreign wars and occupations, continued “tough talk” on crime with little or no effort to attack its causes (poverty, drugs, racism and hopelessness).
It’s also an approach that almost certainly would assure us another four to eight years of Republican control of the White House.
The truth is that those independent voters who turned out for Obama and Edwards are simply not going to vote for Hillary Clinton in November ’08. If it were to become a choice between Clinton and McCain, Clinton and Giuliani or Clinton and Huckabee, they will sit the election out-or even vote Republican. And she’s not going to get the other independents either-the ones who really are conservative leaning. If they vote at all, they’ll go Republican, offered the choice between Republican or Republican lite with a few liberal bells and whistles.
Fortunately, Iowa’s Democratic and independent voters have made it clear to the rest of the country that voting for Hillary Clinton is to commit Democratic Party suicide. Her whole campaign has been based upon the notion that she is the most “electable” candidate in the Democratic field-a notion that now stands exposed as a pathetic farce.
If Democratic primary voters in the rest of the country are paying attention, they will quickly send her packing back to New York, where she can continue her role, with colleague Chuck Schumer, of Wall Street lickspittle.
The rest of the Democrats seeking office or seeking re-election next fall should take heed. There is a frustrated, angry and very large bloc of people out there-independent voters-who are looking for progressive candidates who will not just talk in buzzwords, but who will act to restore some semblance of Constitutional government in America, and who will end the damned war in Iraq. If they’re lucky, those voters might giver them one more chance despite the wretched betrayal of November 2006.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006, and now in paperback). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net