A Tale of Two Races

In America, there is a Democratic primary race between a two-term female Senator, with plenty of establishment backing and experience prior to her election to the Senate, and a charismatic young man of color with a funny name who lacks much traditional experience or establishment support but has a killer grassroots organization. The former was the frontrunner before any votes were cast, but has a consistent losing streak in actual contests. The young man is winning by a significant number of pledged delegates, but by a much smaller margin when the older woman’s superdelegate (whom she insists be referred to as “auto-delegates”) lead is taken into account. Following his most recent victories, the young man sent out a press release that went as follows:

In [month], I launched a political campaign. Today it’s a movement. It’s not
about me, however. It’s about the thousands of people across [area] who
believe America can do better and are willing to work hard to help our nation live
up to its ideals again.
“If we stand together, we can do more than win the [Democratic] endorsement and the
general election this fall. We can change America. We can end the Iraq War. We
can combat global warming. We can balance the federal budget. We can deliver
health care to all Americans. We can restore our constitutional rights. We can
make history. That’s what this effort is all about.

The woman would need a large majority of the delegates yet to be pledged in order to have a majority going into the convention, whereas the man would need merely a substantial minority. However, she’s staying in, even though the Republicans have already settled on a nominee.
No, this post isn’t about Hillary and Obama. It’s about Terri Bonoff and Ashwin Madia and the race for the Democratic Farmer-Labor nomination in Minnesota’s 3rd congressional district. And yes, all those statements are as true of Terri and Ashwin as they are of Hillary and Barack. Their backgrounds are as I described them, that disparity between pledged delegates and superdelegates does exist, Madia did release that statement, and yes, Bonoff does call superdelegates “auto-delegates”, just like Harold Ickes. Bonoff, like Clinton, would need to win the upcoming contests by significant margins in order to have a majority at the congressional district convention, but is staying in nonetheless, even though the Republicans have already chosen Erik Paulsen as their nominee. Really, the similarities between the contests are creepy.
Why does this matter? It matters because it shows that Obama is replicable. It shows that his model for young reformers, a model based on the organization and mobilization of average, traditionally disengaged citizens, doesn’t just work for him, or even just for presidential candidates; it can work for multiple politicians, on various levels of government. There’s been a lot of talk today about what Bill Foster’s victory says about Obama’s coattails. But to me, Madia’s success says more. It says that Obama is not just a politician, or even just a movement. He’s the developer of a new method of doing progressive politics, one that will do more good than he alone ever could.

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