Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Looking Beyond South Carolina

Yesterday, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, and on MSNBC, argued that following Hillary Clinton's possibly double-digit defeat to Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary, the New York Senator should go to Chappaqua, regroup- and bypass South Carolina in favor of the closed Democratic primary states. This morning, talking to the usually sensibe Salon editor Joan Walsh, Scarborough repeated his recommendation, to which Walsh responded that Clinton "cannot by pass the African-Americans of South Carolina.... because it's disrepectful."

Prior to the Iowa caucuses, it was generally thought that Clinton and Obama were neck-and-neck in South Carolina, with the black vote- nearly half of the Democratic primary vote there- roughly evenly split. It also was widely speculated that Obama, the first black with a serious chance to win a major party nomination for President- had not generated overwhelming support in the black community because of a concern that white America would not for the foreseeable future vote for an African-American for the highest office in the land. That is a concern which, no doubt, has now been dispelled, or at least will once Obama wins by a large margin in New Hampshire after doing so in another overwhelmingly white state, Iowa.

This of course means that Scarborough who (impressively) predicted that Democrats would take back the House and the Senate in 2006 and (less impressively) a few days before Iowa that Obama and Huckabee would win the Iowa caucuses, is correct. Additionally, Clinton will have to shake up her campaign team (Carville and Begala are most-mentioned names), which John Kerry did in the autumn of 2003 and John McCain earlier this year, both to good effect.

Would this offend or enrage a critical portion of the black community of South Carolina, including the extremely influential Representative James Clyburn? Yes, and it would provide a fantastic opportunity for a Sister Souljah moment (and, conveniently for a Clinton). There is nothing racist or inconsequential about the African-Americans of South Carolina or its Democratic party. But Mrs. Clinton would be demonstrating her commitment to winning and her willingness to buck an important group in the Democratic coalition (or, "interest group," as some would have it). She would be doing no harm to black Americans or the legitimate aims of the black community. And it would confound those voters who find Democrats, no matter our virtues, as weak or vulnerable to intimidation.

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