Streetwise Professor

April 8, 2008

Barone on the Democrats’ Jacksonian Dilemma

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 9:48 am

Political analyst extraordinaire Michael Barone advances a theme that I explored in a couple of recent SWP posts, namely, that the party of Jefferson and Jackson has a Jacksonian problem. Hillary appeals far more to Jacksonian Democrats than does Obama. Indeed, many Jacksonian Democrats likely despise Obama. Is there an element of racism to this? Perhaps, but it is not the main thing. The main thing that repels them is Obama’s extreme liberalism, not to say left-radicalism, and his caravan of leftist supporters. But, as Barone notes, McCain is more appealing to Jacksonians than Clinton. If the Democrats nominate Hillary, it will alienate the black core of the Democratic party, but may not bring along enough Jacksonians to prevail against McCain. If the Democrats nominate Obama, they risk sparking a flood of Jacksonian defections to McCain.

Given that Jacksonian Democrats are concentrated in states that are in play, such as Pennsylvania, this is a serious dilemma for the Democrats. There is a long way to go, but the battle for the White House will be fought over the Jacksonians who will be the swing voters. It is not a battle that Democrats are well-positioned to win, even though Andrew Jackson was once the very symbol of the Democratic party.

An aside on the last point. Can you imagine a modern Harvard professor and Democratic court historian writing paeans to Andrew Jackson as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once did? I certainly can’t, and I am sure Barone couldn’t either. And this captures the Democrat dilemma perfectly. Obama’s core support is an academic left that despises Jackson and all he stood for. Barone notes that the Democratic academic “tribe” and its Jacksonian one have very different worldviews. It could be said that the academic tribe is from Venus, and the Jacksonian from Mars. The Venusians will vote Democratic regardless, but the Martians may not. They are far less likely to vote for the Venusian Obama than the Venusian-one-minute-Martian-the-next Hillary, but they are very winnable by the definitely Martian McCain regardless of who emerges from the Democrat Cage Match in Denver.

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  1. […] made a preliminary attempt here. Others have done a much more thorough job. Most notable of these is Walter Russell Mead, on whose […]

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