09 May 2012
Democracy in West Virginia: an inmate challenges the President
The talk you heard last year about challenging President Obama's renomination by the Democratic party from the left was never going to amount to anything. Obama is too much of a progressive icon, no matter what he does, for left-liberals to take him on, and a few well-timed insinuations that white left-liberals were holding Obama to a racist double-standard probably enhanced their innate inhibitions. The Democratic left's abdication did not leave Obama's path to renomination unchallenged, but the progressives left the field to pure protest candidates and cranks. In West Virginia yesterday, one of these cranks got 40% of the primary vote against the President. He is Keith Judd, a prison inmate and serial candidate who somehow raised the relatively minimal sum to get on the primary ballot. Based on the questionnaire he filled out for Project Vote Smart during his last presidential run, Judd is anything but a progressive standard bearer -- he comes across more like a libertarian populist. Nor were the West Virginians who voted for him progressives, at least according to the news media. The media's focus has been on voters protesting against the President from the right or center, particularly people dependent on the state's coal industry and resentful of environmental regulations that might cost jobs. We are reminded that Obama lost badly to then-Senator Clinton in this state in 2008, and he isn't expected to take the state in the general election. West Virginia was perhaps unlikely to have a progressive constituency for a progressive protest candidate, but when you consider that the only way the state's Democrats could protest against Obama was to vote for someone like Judd, who reportedly ended up earning at least one delegate to the national convention, you can't help wondering what would have happened had West Virginians had a choice of protest candidates -- had progressive Democrats not been such cowards.