Over the last couple of days I’ve been in Washington D.C. at a conference for health disparities. One of the speakers we listened to was Aranthan Jones, former health policy advisor to Rep. Christensen and current House Majority Whip James Clyburn’s Director of Policy. What he focused on was the magic number of 35. There are approximately 55 competitive house races this year, and of those races, the Democrats look to win 35 of them (at least). Losses in places like Mississippi have severely weakened the GOP brand. But what does this mean for us?
The 35 seats that Jones predicts victory in break down like this:
Keep these numbers in mind. I’ll come back to them.
Check out this video featuring Donna Brazile and Paul Begala:
What Brazile and Begala are arguing about above is the future of the political strategy of focusing on the needs and desires of conservative white working class voters to the exclusion of blacks and liberal white voters–for Brazile this strategy has resulted in ignoring the core of the Democratic coalition, for Begala this strategy was what put Clinton over the top in 92 and 96.
(as an aside note that Begala ignores extra-DNC factors–the Perot vote in 92 and 96, the Supreme Court in 00).
For Brazile, Obama’s ability to attract racially moderate whites in places like Oregon, combined with increasing numbers of African Americans (and some Latinos), preclude the need to go after white voters in places like kentucky. Voters who appear to have a great deal of racial resentment. And for what it is worth I believe she is right. It will be difficult, but Obama can win without conservative white voters in the Appalachians, voters who don’t appear to understand their economic interests because of racism.
This isn’t just about the presidency though. Remember that magic number, and where the bulk of the new Democratic seats will come from. Inevitably the party will STILL be driven by the concerns of conservative whites. Which means that at some point we still have to work hard to convince white working class voters that their economic interests not only lie in voting for Democratic candidates, but in expanding the role of government to deal with their material needs. This is why I thought that Edwards was a better candidate than Obama or Clinton, and why I hope that Obama picks someone like Edwards to run as his VP candidate. But more importantly this is why people like Adolph Reed are right to argue that we need to organize a working IDEOLOGICAL majority that can lead to a working VOTING majority.