Sen. Obama Beat the Political Machine in Maryland

“Obama’s campaign…may be creating…a powerful constituency for ‘real’ change.”

— Dave Lindorff, political pundit

Sen. Barack Obama’s vote-generating juggernaut came very close to burying Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations in Maryland’s primary, on Feb. 12, 2008. Clinton’s candidacy in the “Free State” was aligned with its powerful Democratic Party Political Machine, while Sen. Obama was forced to reach out to the grassroots. In the Clinton camp, was the senior U.S. Senator from Maryland, Barbara Mikulski. She is seen by some as an appeaser of the Bush-Cheney Gang, particularly on the Iraq War. Clinton also had in her corner the state’s Governor, Martin O’Malley. His popularity, however, is sinking faster than the value of the U.S. dollar. His administration recently pushed through some very unwelcomed tax hikes. “Bubba Bill” Clinton also made an appearance or two on his wife’s behalf. Alas, it was all to no avail, as the final results indicated. Sen. Obama carried Maryland by a whopping 60% to 37%–with a margin of about 180,000 votes.

Combined with his smashing victories in Virginia and in the District of Columbia–the so-called “Potomac Primaries”–Sen. Obama (D-IL) surged ahead in the all important national Democratic Party delegate count. At this point, he’s leading by an estimated 100-plus delegates over Sen. Clinton (D-NY). He now has won primaries in 21 states to only 12 for Clinton and has eight victories in a row. One expert, in the Democratic Party delegate-counting area, has said that it is now “highly unlikely” that Clinton can end up with more “pledged” delegates than Sen. Obama. [1]

While Sen. Obama was trouncing the Machine’s candidate, Clinton, in the state wide fight, Donna Edwards, a feisty populist and antiwar candidate, was pulling off a stunning upset. She is projected as the winner, by 14,000 votes, over the incumbent 4th District Democratic Congressman from Maryland, Al Wynn. I met Ms. Edwards on Feb. 11, 2008, while she was making the campaign rounds at a huge Obama rally, which was held at the U. of Maryland’s Comcast Center, in College Park MD. (College Park is part of the 4th Congressional District and is located just north of the District of Columbia’s boundary line.) The Progressive Democrats of America, (PDA), among other liberal groups, endorsed Edwards’ bid for office. Many of the PDA activists also worked very hard in her victorious campaign. [2]

As for Sen. Mikulski, her popularity isn’t what it use to be. Besides voting consistently to fund the Iraq War, she also voted, on a cue from Sen. “Turncoat Joe” Lieberman of Connecticut, for the USA Patriot Act. Just the other day, Mikulski gave her approval to a legislative scheme which will grant retroactive civil immunity to Telecoms who may have violated the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens, via widespread illegal surveillance. [3] Civil libertarians were duly outraged at Mikulski’s vote to okay the spying measure. But for a long time Mikulski-watcher like myself, I wasn’t surprised. She’s been faking it for years. [4] The Senate bill also increases the Bush-Cheney Gang’s power to eavesdrop on the public. Sen. Obama voted against the bill, while Sen. Clinton did not vote at all.

The truth is that Sen. Clinton couldn’t have picked a worse standard bearer for her candidacy in Maryland, than windbag Mikulski. At one of the puffed up rallies for Sen. Clinton, which was held in Annapolis, MD, state delegate Maggie McIntosh, showed up standing to Mikulski’s right. Years ago, she worked in Mikulski’s congressional office. Well, this is also the same McIntosh, who as a member of the Maryland legislature, voted to “deregulate” the gas and electric industry in the state. The horrible result–homeowners, and businesses, too, have been socked with shocking increases in their rates of over 70 percent. [5] Meanwhile, many of the elderly on fixed incomes have, tragically, been unable to pay their heat, food and gasoline bills. [6] Mikulski, McIntosh and O’Malley–bad news for Maryland. Now, they are bad news, too, for Sen. Clinton’s fading White House dreams.

At the February 11th spirited rally for Sen. Obama at College Park, MD, I was impressed by the genuine enthusiasm–feverish enthusiam–that the mostly youthful crowd of about 20,000, white and black alike, displayed for its candidate. Sen. Obama was in top form, too. He’s a terrific speaker, with a charming persona. And, he knew how to skillfully work his audience. Check out my eight minute video of the event on YouTube, at: Sen. Obama spoke for over 41 minutes and kept the crowd on its feet for most of the time–rocking, cheering and chanting away. This political phenomena has a name. It’s called “Obamamania.” [7]

At the rally, Sen. Obama called the decision to go to war in Iraq “unwise.” He railed against how our veterans have been abandoned by the Bush-Cheney Gang after coming home from the conflict. Sen. Obama also got his digs in about the convicted perjurer, Irv “Scooter” Libby, and his boss, V. P. Dick Cheney. He said, too, he wanted our troops brought home “by 2009,” and that he is opposed to a “permanent occupation” of Iraq. To ringing applause, Sen. Obama said that his Justice Department will be about “justice,” and that unlike the present occupant of the White House, George W. Bush, Jr., he will “obey the U.S. Constitution.”

Finally, that Sen. Obama could beat Sen. Clinton in Maryland, obviously, enhanced his chances to capture his party’s presidential nomination. That he could also decisively humble the out-of-touch “Political Machine” of the state’s Democratic Party in the process, has an even more compelling message: Sen. Obama could go all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!