Redealing the deck
Is the Democratic Party's race-gender coalition in danger of fracturing? Captain Ed seems to think so. "The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have started trading allegations of race-baiting, and now John Edwards has jumped into the fray on Obama's side. The party of identity politics appears about to founder on its very premise." When a coalition -- any coalition fractures -- it is usually due to problems in the division of spoils. A conflict of interest emerges and the forces that divide them over the sharing of power begin to outweigh the incentives for cooperation. Is this happening in the Democratic Party?
If Barack Obama were another leader in the mold of Al Sharpton the structure of the Democratic coalition would have remained undisturbed. But he has positioned himself as a blank screen upon which different coalitions could project their thoughts. He is "Hope"; he is a "unifier". And that, by definition, is either a coalition maker or a coalition-breaker.
Hillary represents another type of coalition-breaker. Coalitions exist because each participant wants a share in the loot. But Hillary poses the threat of dominance; someone who can circumvent the rules of horsetrading because the Clinton dynasty is powerful enough to do so. Her threat is different from Obama's, who represents the possibility of forming new coalitions within the party that will sweep away the old ones. Hillary represents the subordination of coalition politics to the politics of the royal court.
Either way the Democratic Party's old political model may be coming to an end. It's new face can be glimpsed through the smoke and mirrors of media coverage. In a little while we might be able to see the whole thing walk through the mist. I'm not looking forward to it personally, but we shall see what we shall see.