That said, I nonetheless have to work to understand what Clinton's dwindling core of supporters are hanging on to. Fortunately I know some, so what follows is not entirely blowing smoke.
As I've blogged before, many good progressive Clinton supporters are just now learning that she has lost. The shock is still real for many.
And though Clinton has lost, and a good number of us political junkies have known this would be the outcome since sometime in March, the loss is very narrow. Clinton's claims that more popular votes were cast for her are based on some phony accounting (she drops some caucus states like Washington from the calculations). And there's no rational argument that she did not lose among voting delegates to the Democratic convention. Obama has won a narrow margin among pledged and superdelegates. But the margin is small and the contest close.
Early on I found Obama's supporters irritating, willing to embrace their guy with what seemed gushing, baseless enthusiasm. I still think folks who believe Obama is promising a real break from the imperial, corporate consensus are being naïve. But I believe the logic of defeating McCain from Obama's political and identity position will tend to move him in directions I like. And the more naïve Obama supporters will learn -- they'll have to. The rest of us will live to fight another day under an Obama administration.
Meanwhile Clinton partisans are getting the news and adjusting to it: the Field poll in California now shows that state's voters reversing the preferences they expressed on Super Tuesday: among Democrats, Obama tops Clinton by a margin of 51-38. Even in New York, half of Democrats now want Clinton to end her campaign.
The holdouts pretty clearly are white women of a certain age. According to a recent Pew poll,
This makes me sad. As a woman for whom feminism -- the revolutionary belief that women are human -- is central to my being, I'm sorry that my sisters are unable to recognize that a woman they identify with could lose in a fair fight. Come on folks, the fact that it was a fair fight in which the man and the woman played by the same rules is progress...
Yet I can sympathize with this excellent description of why some women feel so hurt by the outcome of the Democratic primaries:
Of course this is painful. Having just read A Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin's opus about Abraham Lincoln, I imagine the Clinton folks feel about Obama the way that the abolitionist William Seward's supporters must have felt when the unknown from Illinois was nominated. Then the thought was, who's this unsophisticated, inexperienced frontiersman who stands for nothing, but who has defeated such an accomplished, obvious nominee? I'm not predicting that Obama will turn out to be a Lincoln (probably the most important President we ever had), but a nomination this unexpected has occurred before in our history.
One of the signal features of this year's Democratic primaries has been a significant change in the ages of who is voting. I've been working professionally in elections since 1989 and we could always confidently say to our staffs something like: the group most likely to vote are 50 and older. Not anymore. In the Democratic primaries, we've see a dramatically different picture:
Big movements in who votes don't happen often. That's a huge movement. We are seeing something new -- perhaps what the country needs to meet the challenges of global warming and declining empire.
Update: while I was dithering, the Democratic rules committee has reached compromises on Florida and Michigan that give Clinton a net additional twenty-four delegates -- not enough to overcome Obama's advantage, possibly enough to stop the food fight. Let's hope this will be over next week ...