Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Once upon a time in West Virginia

Theodore H. White:
West Virginia voted on May 10th, a wet, drizzly day. By eight o'clock the polls were closed. With 100 names on some of the local ballots, all of them more important as jobs to West Virginians than the Presidency, the count was very slow. Shortly before nine o'clock, however, came the first flash: Old Field Precinct, Hardy County, Eastern Panhandle, a precinct acknowledging only twenty-five Catholic registered voters, had counted: For Kennedy, 96; for Humphrey, 36.

The count dragged on. By 9:20, with ten precincts out of 2,750 in the state having reported, the first faint trend became visible: Kennedy, 638; Humphrey, 473 --a 60-to-40 break. Yet these were from northern West Virginia, the sensitized civilized north. How would the candidate do in the fundamentalist, coal-mining south? By 9:40 the count read Kennedy, 1,566 and Humphrey, 834; and someone in the Humphrey headquarters muttered, "We're dead."

By ten o'clock the sweep was no longer spotty but statewide. Down in Logan County, Kennedy was outrunning the local boss; in McDowell County he was doing better than 60 to 40. Hill pocket, hill slope, industrial town, Charleston, Parkersburg, Wheeling, suburb, white, Negro -- the Kennedy tide was moving, powerfully, irresistibly, all across the Protestant state, writing its message for every politician in the nation to see.

There remained then only the ceremonies of burial for the Humphrey candidacy and of triumph in the nation to see.
It is no easy thing to dismantle a Presidential candidacy ...

The Making of the President, 1960.
Sphere: Related Content


yourcousin said...

Come now Malcolm, you know better than to go down this route. While Hillary whomped on Obama in West Virginia we would do well to remember that there were only primaries held in 15 states with Kennedy taking 2/3 for himself (though not every candidate ran in every primary). Though in 2008 we've done about all fifty with Guam to boot. If we would like to take a lesson from that primary season it ought to be that majority rules.

Interesting that you bring it up though since it got me thinking about the similarities between then and now in West Virginia primaries. Humphrey contested the primary on the idea that Catholic v. Protestant card would go in his favor. It did not go his way. Hillary played that game with the race card and it worked. That is not something I would trumpeting from the mountain top.

Any gain she got from this will be circumvented by Edwards endorsement of Obama today. The fact that Edwards stilled pulled 7% of the vote is an indicator that not even Clinton has been able to totally wipe up that demographic which Obama has chosen to largely forego (until Edward's endorsement).

Though interesting note on the two historical candidates. Because, between the two I rank Humphrey much higher in terms of Civil Rights. Compare if you will. In 1948 Humphrey proclaimed,

"To those who say, my friends, to those who say, that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years too late! To those who say, this civil rights program is an infringement on states' rights, I say this: the time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!"

Compare this with the Kennedy clan which sent the FBI after Martin Luther King Jr. and Kennedy himself who initially tried to stop the King's famous march on Washington and sent Lydon Johnson out of the country because he thought he was too partial to the civil rights movement.

Now admittedly I hold Humphrey's dismemberment of the Farmer-Laborer parties against him as well as his tenure under Johnson and his ADA days against him. To me Obama is Kennedy and Clinton is the Humphrey, both of which are depressing in their own way.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

I agree with most of that.

I posted the White quotation:

(a) because that book, when first published, switched me on to US elections as a blood-sport;

(b) because it's well-written (if by modern standards, a trifle on the fruity side); and

(c) because, as you point out, there are uncomfortable parallels.

Beyond that, you are entitled to pick-and-mix.

I particularly agree that the younger HHH had a some good liberal ways. He was a far better man than any of the Kennedy tribe. As you imply, his early career was based on cleaning up Minneapolis, which involved militant "anti-communism" (smashing the Popular Front). His later misfortune was to fall among Texans (not that LBJ was entirely as evil as he was painted). In between his record was decent, even honourable.

One of us must blog this at greater length.

yourcousin said...

I think that when Kennedy and Hillary are mentioned together (or at least alluded to) it somehow crosses wires in my head and I lose it.

If you want to run with this I'll be more than happy to hand it off. With the legislative session over my job starts going full blast and my foreman just became eligible for Social Security disability so he took it and retired one week into the job leaving us in the lurch (though of course we're all happy for him as this was his last job before retiring).

That's a longwinded way of saying that I'm fucking slammed right now.

Subscribe with Bloglines International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites