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A Byrd in the Hand

A Byrd In The HandUsed to be when you were on the winning end of a landslide that it was your opponent who had to struggle to climb out of the avalanche. and a 40-point stomping of your opponent would have bought you a week or more of bragging rights and swinging your johnson around. But 2008 isn’t that time, and for the fourth time in seven days since her triumphal West Virginia pummeling of Barack Obama, it’s been Hillary Clinton who’s had another shovelful of dirt tossed on her by an erstwhile core constituency as she flails to climb out of the wave of debris that was supposed to have buried her opponent.

The John Edwards endorsement on Wednesday, in front of 12,000 screaming blue-collar voters, was a whack in the kneecap of Hillary’s post-West Virginia claim that Barack Obama couldn’t attract the support of blue-collar voters. On Thursday came the endorsement of the 650,000-member United Steelworkers Union–hardly a bastion of the effete, overeducated latte-and-sushi crowd that is supposed to be carrying the Obama vote along with entrenched, blindly color-loyal black voters and naive, short-attention-span kids who by the fall will be back to text-messaging and Lady Sovereign downloads. On Tuesday, as Hillary prepared for what she hoped would be a reiteration for anyone who wasn’t listening the week before when she said Barack Obama couldn’t attract non-college-educated blue-collar workers, the 105,000-member United Mine Workers Union stood up and gave their nod to Obama.

Every day Hillary puts another quarter in the Presidential gumball machine, hoping for the Everlasting Gobstopper of Executive Anointment, and instead holding out her hand only to have another bitter pill roll out of the dispenser. On Monday Hillary’s colleague on the Senate Armed Services Committee and, at 49 years and counting, the longest-serving member of the Senate, Democrat Robert Byrd–from West Virginia–gave to Obama not only his superdelegate endorsement but his storied, beloved copy of the Constitution of that has famously carried around in his pocket for decades.

Senator Byrd doesn’t have the electoral mojo of a John Edwards or an Al Gore, but he’s the grand old man of elocute and pound-the-podium deliberative democracy, our living embodiment of Jimmy Stewart’s Jefferson Smith, and the biggest colussus in the most august body in American government. The United States Senate has had their shingle hung out for 219 years. Robert Byrd has served in that body for 49 of those years. He’s known more dead people than the living most of us have known. And at 90 years old, there isn’t a day sunny enough that I’d get in a pissing match with this learned old bird, unless I wanted my intellectual ass handed to me.

That he endorsed Senator Obama over Senator Clinton and over the votes of his constituents was big enough, but giving him his prized totem of his fabled breast-pocket Constitution was telling and no small thing psychologically. Everyone wants granddad’s blessing, especially if granddad hasn’t rounded the band and needs around-the-clock tending and supervision.

There’s a curious disconnect going on here between West Virginia rock star Senator Byrd and the hundreds of thousands of blue-collar voters flocking to Obama, and Hillary’s hostage-situation entrenchment that she’s going to save the party from itself because Senator Obama can’t win the ones with dirt under their fingernails.

The exit polls and white-fright prognostications aren’t going to hold come fall.

IGNORAHMUS: I have to second Air America’s Thom Hartman’s ire at Norah O’Donnell explaining away Barack Obama’s Oregon primary victory as expected in what she called one of the most liberal states in America. Oregon is, geographically, the 9th largest state in the union, and it’s liberal enclave encompasses a 110-mile swath of Interstate 5 from Portland to Eugene, and the rest of the state, with the possible exception of part of Bend, in Central Oregon, is as red as Kansas. I grew up having beer cans thrown at me and called “fag” just because I listened to Human League and hung out with someone with a Flock of Seagulls haircut, and still run into high school acquaintances who, when describing persons of Hispanic descent, deploy the antiquated epithet “beaners.” Even in what is referred to as “The People’s Republic Of Portland,” all I have to do is drive four miles in any direction to share a half-rack of Milwaukee’s Best Ice with someone who can recite talking points from the Obama “Muslim” email. Don’t tell me we’re all tempeh and arugula, and will vote, strictly out of white guilt, for the charismatic African-American who can’t bowl. Come on out to Oregon, Norah, and we’ll take a road trip to a few taverns I know, and then we can talk about how unabashedly liberal the Beaver State is (one of those would be an all-nude club on SE 82nd in Portland called the “Beaver Inn”, though I’m not sure they’re name derives entirely from state pride.)

For as much as I resent the promulgation of the “liberal elite” stereotype and believe that it’s mostly the product of FOX News, alleged well-meaning middle-of-the-roaders like Norah O’Donnell are only spraying gasoline on the fire.

Veeps2012

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