Friday, July 21, 2006

A DC Caucus Compromise

There is apparently a compromise deal in the works that the District of Columbia will get a Democratic caucus between the Iowa Caucuses and the NH Primary. Though NH attempted to protect its early status by statute, it specifies that our primary will be at least seven days before any other state.

Something of this nature has been desired by the Democrats for some time, because NH has low minority populations, and it is felt that the nomination process skews unfairly against them. The percentage of Republicans in DC is low enough that for the moment, it doesn't matter much to the Republicans either way. It is possible that Republican voters might react strongly against a candidate who did well in Washington, even from their own party.

I am sure most politicians and their handlers are looking at this from a fairly short-term perspective. Which is wise, because in another generation the political map may be different. It will be interesting, whatever happens.

That a DC Caucus would provide some advantage to black candidates seems fairly obvious. (If the Republicans did the same, maybe it would have some effect in 2008, because it might give Condi a leg up.) Beyond that, it's hard to say. First, it's a caucus, not a primary, which very few Americans have much experience participating in. How any of us would react is an unknown.

The political spectrum is a bit different for African American voters. They lean strongly toward punitive taxation of the rich and the creation of programs designed to help targeted groups, such as children, drug addicts, first-time home buyers, or whatever. Those are both quite far left on the bell curve of US opinion, and those have been the overriding issues on their past voting. But on other issues they are more conservative than the average Democrat: more likely to oppose gay marriage or limit abortion, more supportive of the military, more interested in school vouchers. Because they have been kept on the Democrat plantation to date, with very little chance of influencing the party nationally, the more conservative issues have washed out. In a city campaign, the ground may shift.

A successful nominee may be much more beholden to the black vote than has been true in the past. Promises made may be remembered longer, and the growing resentment against being used on election day, forgotten the day after may increase.

I have long thought that African American voters would have more clout if they registered as Independents, even if they were going to vote mostly for Democrats. It would be a warning shot across the bow.

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