Despite his nearly insurmountable delegate lead in the race for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is trailing Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) by about 40 percentage points in that bastion of free thought known as West Virginia, where residents will cast their votes Tuesday in the state's democratic primary.
Why? Some quotes from some of Mingo County's itinerant scholars:
“I heard that Obama is a Muslim and his wife’s an atheist,” said Mr Simpson, drawing on a cigarette outside the fire station in Williamson, a coalmining town of 3,400 people surrounded by lush wooded hillsides.
Most people questioned said they mistrusted Mr Obama because of doubts about his patriotism and “values”, stemming from his cosmopolitan background, his exotic name and the controversy surrounding “anti-American” sermons by Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor. Several people said they believed he was a Muslim – an unfounded rumour that has circulated on the internet for months – despite the contradiction with his 20-year membership of Mr Wright’s church in Chicago. Others mentioned his refusal to wear a Stars and Stripes badge and controversial remarks by his wife, Michelle, who described America as “mean” and implied that she had never been proud of the US until her husband ran for president.
Josh Fry, a 24-year-old ambulance driver from Williamson, insisted he was not racist but said he would feel more comfortable with Mr McCain, the 71-year-old Vietnam war hero, in the White House. “I want someone who is a full-blooded American as president,” he said.
We all know that "full-blooded American" is West Virginian for "white person," right? And I wonder who Mr. Simpson "heard" the rumor that Obama was Muslim from -- maybe it was from the state's senior democratic senator, Robert Byrd, who got his start in politics in the Ku Klux Klan?
The good news, I suppose, is that the nomination isn't going to be decided by any kind of "democracy" at all, but by mysterious people known as "superdelegates" who nobody knew anything about before January this year. While that's somewhat disenfranchising, it's a bit of a relief given that it'll keep the dolts in that intersection of the Rust Belt and the Bible Belt from having anything to say about who's running the country a year from now.