Ritualised as the handover of a tribal chieftan’s headdress, the standard post-primary ceremony began today. With Hillary Clinton having bested Obama by 55% to 45%, she began – as she would – talking about the big comeback and the tide turning. The media joined in at the chorus, eager to have something, anything to talk about. The result tells us nothing reliable about anything, but if rubbed together, it may kindle a fire.

The ten per cent win was better than the lowest point to which Clinton’s lead dipped – it was at about five at one point – but she came into the competition leading by about fifteen. The final result is an almost perfect average, and suggests that the whole rigmarole – Obama’s ad blitz, the San Francisco remarks, Hillary’s Cloverfield style ad – asking who was best placed to defend against monsters – was all pretty much self-cancelling, bringing the result back to where people’s basic sentiments lay.

Hillary’s team have spun her win in key demographics – especially white working class voters – as proof that she and only she can take the fight to the right. Per se, there’s no reason to suppose that Democrats would not stay with the party when Obama gets the nod. Per se. But there’s a range of polls which suggest that between 20 and 30 percent of Hillary voters would shift across the aisle, on a variety of class and race affiliation issues, a general sense that Obama is more socially liberal, commander-in-chief stuff.

The problem with such polls this far out is that they project into a space that hasn’t really been defined, by a direct head-to-head McCain-Obama conflict. It’s impossible to tell how much of it’s pique, how much of it is a real sense that Obama just ain’t the guy for the job, and how much is racism pure and simple.

Once the competition proper starts, how much of that will simply collapse as a fantasy projection? After all, we don’t know what the presidential campaign is going to intersect with, but it’s unlikely to be peace and prosperity. With the news today that WalMart and other chain stores are rationing staple food purchases – rice and flour and others – to customers in several regions, because of hoarding, yes hoarding, who knows what the hell the candidates will be dealing with come September.

Much of the run on staple food is happening in high-Latino areas, because they are hearing stories from friends and rellies of food riots and price spikes in Mexico and across the Caribbean.

Like most people I’m kinda blindsided by the apparent fact that there’s been a global food price crisis brewing for some time now – to the point that the “silent tsunami” tag now appears on the cover of The Economist.

Should it hit the US in any significant way, as a sort of double-levelled recession – Starbucks profit warnings first then starvation – or as the technical term is depression, then the prospect is that the debate would swing well to the left. Nothing concentrates the mind of working class Republicans, obsessed with cultural issues, like actual hunger. It kinda cuts through to real class interests.

And that’s just the stuff we know about it. Hillary’s idea that you can forecast any of this, this far out, is ludicrous obviously. But she’ll run with it, and run and run. As will the press.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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