There is palpable anxiety, even despair, among many Republicans and conservatives over the possibility that Barack Obama will be elected president this November. This anxiety is being fueled by the mainstream media's fawning coverage of Obama's every word, while shamelessly downplaying John McCain's campaign; by public opinion polls that purport to show Obama "leading" the race over McCain; and by political commentators, on both sides of the aisle, who believe this is the Democrats' "election to lose," based on historical cycles, an uneven economy, high gas prices, continuing opposition to the Iraq War, and President Bush's dismal approval ratings. I don't share this anxiety. For months now, I have been reassuring my right-leaning friends that Barack Obama will not be elected president. If I were a gambling man, I would buy lots of McCain stock on Intrade. Why am I so confident that John McCain is going to win the election? In short, because Barack Obama is not an acceptable choice to lead the country. Let me explain. Obama is too young and inexperienced.
One of Obama's most striking characteristics is how "green" he is compared to previous presidential candidates. Obama was born on August 4, 1961. He just turned 47 years old. The average age of elected presidents since 1952 (the era of televised politics) is 56.
If elected president, Obama would be the fifth youngest president in U.S. history. The only younger presidents would be Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Ulysses S. Grant, all of whom were much more accomplished than Obama. Grant, Roosevelt, and Kennedy were war heroes. (Not Clinton, notoriously.) Roosevelt and Clinton had served as state governors. Grant had been the general-in-chief of the Union Army during the Civil War. The least experienced of the four, Kennedy, had served twelve years in Congress, six in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate, and had been a serious candidate for vice-president in 1956.
What has Obama accomplished to date? In truth, not very much -- except to master the art of self-promotion.
Obama has written two best-selling autobiographies: Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006). Yet he has never served in an important leadership position in government, business, or the military. His ability to perform as a chief executive officer is completely untested.
Obama has prestigious degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, but no significant professional achievements to his name. No businesses or organizations he has founded or managed. No law firm partnerships. No important cases he has tried. Not a single work of legal scholarship he has authored, despite having been Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Law Review and a part-time law professor at the University of Chicago for twelve years. (This is unheard of in the elite ranks of the legal profession, and calls into question the bona fides of Obama's professorship.)
Obama's principal occupation before entering politics was as a "community organizer" in Chicago. By his own admission, these efforts achieved only "some success," and none worthy of highlighting on his campaign website. Obama then served eight unexceptional years in the Illinois Senate, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, where he is not even considered one of the Democratic Party's legislative leaders.
And this man believes he is "the one we have been waiting for"?
Obama may be considered a "rock star" by his supporters, but the kind of superficial glamour and excitement that this terminology suggests is not what most voters are looking for in a president. Heartland values, not Hollywood values, still define what most voters want in a president. Most voters want a president whom they perceive as loyal, courageous, hardworking, and fair. Someone who commands the respect of others through the strength of his character and the wisdom of his actions. Someone who is prepared to fight to protect his home and country from invaders. In other words, someone who appeals to voters, on a psychological or emotional level, as the kind of person they would want for a father, husband, boss, or comrade-in-arms.
Rock stars may be fun, but they do not fit this image. Neither does Obama. His life story, while unique and interesting, bespeaks little more than an ambitious and opportunistic young man, still wet behind the ears, with an unhealthy fascination with his own ego - and potentially unreliable when the chips are down.
The American people are not going to entrust the security and prosperity of the country to such an immature and unproven man.
Obama is too liberal.
The last Democratic presidential candidate who garnered more than 50% of the popular vote was Jimmy Carter in 1976 - and Carter received only 51% of the vote in a political environment marked by defeat in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, an energy crisis, and stagflation. There has been only one other Democratic president in the past 40 years: Bill Clinton. Despite campaigning as "New Democrat," Clinton received only 43% of the popular vote in 1992 (his victory was due to the third-party candidacy of Ross Perot) and 49% of the popular vote in 1996. Significantly, the Democratic candidate's share of the popular vote has gone down the last two elections. Al Gore received 48.4% of the popular vote in 2000, and John Kerry received 48.3% in 2004.
The Democratic Party has a terrible track record at the presidential level since the 1960s because it consistently nominates far left presidential candidates who do not represent the values, interests, and aspirations of most Americans. See McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry. Even Gore, who was considered a "moderate" Democratic (no longer), lost to the uninspiring George W. Bush in 2000.
Barack Obama is no exception. In his brief tenure in the U.S. Senate, Obama has compiled a consistently liberal voting record, and was named the Most Liberal Senator for 2007 by the National Journal. This distinction does not augur well for Obama. John Kerry was named the Most Liberal Senator for 2003 -- the year before he lost the 2004 presidential contest to Bush.
As a U.S. Senator, Obama has voted along Democratic Party lines 97 percent of the time, almost 10 percentage points higher than the average for Senate Democrats. So much for his "bipartisan" image. He opposed funding for the War on Terror that was not tied to a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. He opposed strengthening the ability of the federal government to monitor terrorist communications. He voted in favor of providing habeas corpus rights to detainees at Guantanamo Bay. He supported the failed "comprehensive immigration reform" bills. He voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment. He opposed a bill that would have reduced the federal estate tax. He voted against the confirmations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
For his efforts, Obama has received "100" ratings from Americans for Democratic Action, Planned Parenthood, the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Government Workers, Citizens for Tax Justice (i.e., for raising taxes on the "rich"), Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the National Education Association, and the National Organization for Women. He has received "F" grades from the National Taxpayers Union, the National Rifle Association, and U.S. English, a 13 rating from Citizens Against Government Waste, 7 ratings from the Club for Growth, the American Conservative Union, and the Eagle Forum, and zero ratings from the Family Research Council, the National Right to Life Committee, and Americans for Tax Reform.
Obama's voting record as a state senator reflected the same left-wing agenda: He opposed restrictions on partial birth abortion and requiring medical care for fetuses who are born alive during an abortion. He opposed requiring school officials to install pornography-blocking software on public computers accessible to minors. He opposed a $500 income tax credit for parents who send their children to private schools. He supported restrictions on gun ownership, and opposed a bill that permitted the owner of an unregistered handgun to claim self-defense if he used the gun in his own home. He consistently voted in favor of higher taxes.
True to form, in his campaign for president, Obama advocates a dizzying array of hyper-liberal policies, including: "equal pay" laws, expanded federal leave laws, expanded "hate crime" laws, a panoply of social services for convicted criminals, increasing foreign aid spending by tens of billions of dollars with the goal of "cutting extreme poverty around the world in half by 2015" (pure utopianism paid for by the American taxpayer), requiring 25 percent of U.S. electricity come from "renewable" sources by 2025 (an impossible goal without drastically shrinking the economy), spending tens of billions of dollars on an FDR-style array of federal economic programs, further raising the minimum wage, and providing "affordable" and "comprehensive" health insurance to all Americans (aka socialized medicine). Naturally, he proposes to pay for all these programs by raising taxes on "the wealthiest taxpayers" and imposing a "windfall profits tax" on oil companies.
With the sole (and misguided) exception of "universal health care," there is little popular demand in this country for the kind of soak-the-rich, tax-and-spend politics that Obama is offering. This is not 1932 or 1965. The American people are not interested in another round of top-down social engineering by the federal government. If anything, the nation's political leaders need to catch up to the waves of conservative and populist impulses spreading throughout the country. See, for example, the grassroots movement to limit the eminent domain power of state and local governments and the nationwide revolt against "comprehensive Immigration reform."
Obama's dissolutely liberal politics will sink him in the general election, just as it torpedoed previous Democratic candidates.
Obama is too race-conscious.
Finally, we come to the "hot button" issue in this election: Obama's black racial consciousness.
Contrary to what Obama and his supporters want the American people to believe, Obama is not a "post-racial" politician. As abundantly demonstrated in his two autobiographies, his 20-year membership in Rev. Jeremiah Wright's "unashamedly black" Trinity United Church of Christ, and his "intensely race-conscious approach" to politics as an Illinois state senator (see here), Obama is deeply committed to his "black" identity -- despite having a white mother and being raised for much of his childhood by his white grandparents. Furthermore, Obama built his political career on promoting the interests of the black urban community. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, Obama's black racial consciousness is going to have a negative effect on his campaign for president by undermining his appeal among white working- and middle-class voters.
Let's look at some numbers. According to the CNN exit poll, in the 2004 presidential election, the electorate was composed of 77% whites, 11% blacks, 8% Latinos, 2% Asian, and 2% other. They voted as follows: whites 58-41 for Bush; blacks 88-11 for Kerry; Latinos 53-44 for Kerry; Asians 56-44 for Kerry.
I see little reason to believe that the Latino or Asian votes will change substantially in 2008. Clearly, the black vote will shift even more strongly in favor of the Democratic candidate. However, the white voting population is seven times larger than the black voting population. Consequently, a shift in the black vote of seven percentage points is roughly equivalent to a shift in the white vote of one point. Even if Obama were to receive essentially all black votes, which is unlikely, a loss of less than two percentage points of the white vote would be enough to offset these gains.
So the key to the upcoming election is whether white voters will be more, less, or equally likely to vote for Obama as for Kerry. I believe the answer is less likely.
Interestingly, commentators on the left tend to agree with this prediction, because they believe that many white voters are "racists"; commentators on the right usually ignore the race issue altogether, because they fear that any discussion of white voting preferences will support the "racism" charge. I disagree that "racism" is the explanation. Rather, it is Obama's history of race-based politics and his membership in a militant black church - which places him in opposition to most white voters on such emotional issues as welfare, crime, and affirmative action, and casts doubt on his ability and commitment to represent the interests of the entire nation.
To develop a profile of Obama's electoral strengths and weaknesses, I examined the CNN entrance and exit polls for the 2008 Democratic primaries in Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. These were the states in which the spread between Bush and Kerry in 2004 was three percentage points or less (in either direction). (New Hampshire also belongs on this list, but I could not find polling data for the 2008 primaries in that state.) I selected these states because they are likely to be the critical battlegrounds this fall.
The polls show that, in general, Obama did especially well among black voters, younger voters (under 45), voters who earn more than $100,000 per year, voters with college and postgraduate degrees, non-religious voters, and self-described liberal voters. In other words, the core constituencies of the Democratic Party. On the other hand, he demonstrated much less appeal to white voters, older voters (ages 45 and up), voters who earn less than $50,000 per year, voters with some or no college education, Catholic voters, and self-described moderate voters. In other words, white working- and middle-class voters -- so-called Reagan Democrats. These voters strongly preferred Hillary Clinton.
Significantly, in the 2004 election, John Kerry performed reasonably well among this group. He won 55 percent of voters who earn less than $50,000. He won 47 percent of voters ages 45 and up. He won 47 percent of voters with no college degree. He won 47 percent of Catholic voters. He won 55 percent of self-described moderate voters. Nevertheless, Kerry lost. If only a few percent of these voters switch to McCain, as I believe they will, Obama cannot win. Yes, tens of millions of Americans (of all colors) will vote for Obama; but more will vote for McCain.
Overall, I predict Obama will receive even less of the popular vote than John Kerry in 2004 (48.3%), and perhaps as little as Michael Dukakis in 1988 (45.7%).
As I wrote last December, "[t]he pundits can talk until they are blue in the face about Obama's charisma and eloquence and cross-racial appeal. The fact of the matter is that Obama has no chance of being elected president in 2008." I am more convinced of this conclusion than ever.