Today’s Caucuses

Huckabee routed McCain in Kansas, which ought to embarrass the Republicans. Over the past couple of days the Repugs have gotten a little too smug about saying they have a nominee and the Dems don’t.

Obama took Washington state and Nebraska by wide margins.

Update: Obama won Louisiana.

Espresso Roast

Gerard Baker has an insipidly shallow column at the Times of London comparing “latte liberals” and “Dunkin’ Doughnuts Democrats.”

The fault lines in the contest instead fall largely along differences in identity – ethnic and gender – and values. Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton have, as we have noted before, both established massive, almost identically sized coalitions of voting blocs aligned along these cleavages.

Mrs Clinton wins heavily among white women, older voters and Latinos. Where they voted in large numbers on Tuesday, she won by large margins.

Mr Obama won states where his following of younger voters, African-Americans and white men predominated.

But one other critical factor – the one that may ultimately determine who wins this race – is whether the voter is sinking or swimming in the modern economy.

Mr Obama wins disproportionately among people who may be considered the winners in the global economy: the well educated, the mobile and the financially secure. Mrs Clinton’s voters are the strugglers, the class that feels itself left behind by an increasingly unfair global economic system.

Now, let us ask ourselves, why would that be true? Bill Clinton’s NAFTA policy played a role in creating an increasingly unfair global economic system, after all. Last year Hillary Clinton made some noises about breaking with her husband’s policy on trade agreements. Still, Hillary Clinton is just not the first name that comes to mind when I ask myself, which would most likely try to do right by American workers?

Until recently, the answer to that question was “John Edwards.” Now I don’t know.

I went to their web sites to check out Obama’s and Clinton’s proposals on trade and jobs. I was surprised to find more detail on Obama’s site on these issues than I found on Clinton’s. I will put their proposals side-by-side below the fold for easy comparison. The important point is that they are putting out nearly identical talking points about job creation and trade, and neither has made these issues the centerpiece of his or her campaign. I don’t see how one could argue that one of these candidates would clearly and obviously provide better policies for the strugglers than the other.

Gerard Baker, however, seems to think that’s the case. He has decided that since lower-income voters tend to vote for Clinton, then if the economy continues to go south more and more Dem voters will flock to Clinton.

So who prevails? That may well depend on the state of the economy. The more voters worry about it and the less they focus on ideals, the better Mrs Clinton’s chances. For her, bad news is good news. …

… People are trading down from Starbucks to Dunkin’ Donuts. These may not be the best circumstances for Mr Obama’s soaring rhetoric of hope in the future. His hope has to be that things do not get so bad that fear overwhelms it.

In 1992 Bill Clinton rode to an election victory under the slogan, “The economy, stupid”. Sixteen years later, we could say, given the apparent inevitability of a recession and given Mrs Clinton’s strong following among the less well educated in American society, that it is an even more fitting message for his wife.

Notice the part about the “less well educated in American society.” Here’s another bit from Baker’s column:

Mrs Clinton’s largest single demographic voting bloc was those who did not complete a high school education, where she won 82 per cent, against just 15 per cent for Mr Obama. The more educated you became – from high school drop-out, through high school graduate then some college, college graduate and finally postgraduate – the more likely you were to vote for Mr Obama. The only category he won, in fact, was the propeller heads with postgraduate degrees.

The problem with Baker’s theory is that people who already are well educated will not become less well educated if the economy continues to deteriorate. Of course, there’s always a chance that toxic chemicals from products made in China will damage their brains. But I see no compelling reason for a well-educated individual to switch allegiance from Obama to Clinton if he is, for example, laid off.

However, I suggest there may be other reasons why the less well-educated prefer Clinton to Obama. And I think the big one starts with an “r.”

Although you can find racism in all strata of our society, in my long and tired experience low-income, undereducated whites tend to be far more overtly and unabashedly racist than upwardly mobile, educated ones. I don’t have any sociological data to confirm that, so I’ll call this a hypothesis. And I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions, and please note that I’m not saying Clinton supporters are all racists, any more than Obama supporters are all sexists. But I postulate that some of those low-educated voters may just not be ready to vote for a black man. Having a white woman as a head of state may feel less alien to them. Most of them have mothers, after all.

Another factor is low information. Undereducated voters may think they know something about Hillary Clinton (exactly what is anyone’s guess), but Obama is a total unknown to them. And since they don’t read newspapers or follow politics closely, they probably aren’t learning much about him, either.

BTW, there’s a new Starbucks about to open in my neighborhood. It will be across the street from Dunkin’ Doughnuts, which makes a pretty decent latte.

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