It's worth recalling what this primary came to be about, because of a self-conscious decision by the Clintons to adopt the tactics and politics of the people who persecuted and hounded them in the 1990s. It was indeed in the end about smearing and labeling Obama as a far-left, atheist, elite, pansy Godless snob fraud. That was almost all it came to be about. It was the Clintons' core message and core belief. And if anywhere would have proved its salience, it would surely have been beleaguered and depressed central and western Pennsylvania; and it would surely have worked with white ethnic voters over 50.
It did work, it seems to me. It will work, to some extent. It's valid in the sense that Rove is not stupid. But it works less and less the younger the vote is; and it is obviously losing some of its divisive salience even among the older generation. It is fading as a tool. Used by Democrats, legitimized by Democrats, embraced by Democrats, the Rove-Atwater gambits have been paid the highest compliment by the Clintons these past few weeks. But a single digit win against a young black man in a polarized race suggests that this compliment was past its sell-by date. It was an act of desperation, and one last grab back to the past. It didn't quite do what it was supposed to do. Nearly, but not quite.
The past is receding; but the future has yet to be born. This is hard labor. Necessary labor. But the direction of this country is clear, it seems to me. And heartening.