Obama, Liberal Anger, and African American Loyalty.

If you weren't already convinced, Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin show that a primary to challenge Obama is extremely unlikely:

Two of the Democratic Party's most well-known progressives — Howard Dean and Russ Feingold — have both indicated that they won't take on Obama, and there are few others who have the stature and willingness to mount a credible campaign against the president. Top leaders of the institutional left say they don't want a 2012 intra-party civil war. And as disillusioned as some in Obama's base may be in the wake of his tax deal making with Republicans — and the frustration does seem to be at a high watermark — an array of Democrats said it is unlikely the president would face a challenge from within his own party.

"At moments of frustration or in an attempt to leverage a policy agenda, it is becoming a regular attention grabber to raise the specter of a primary challenge," said former Service Employees Internation Union President Andy Stern. "In the case of President Obama, it deserves to be idle chatter."

And of course, anyone who would want to challenge Obama in a primary can't escape the fact that such a race would destroy the Democratic Party in national elections. It's pretty straightforward: They overwhelmingly approve of his performance and have no reason to support a challenge. Not only would this doom a challenger -- the black vote is pretty important -- but it would drive a huge wedge between African Americans and the party at large. Blacks have been loyal supporters of every Democratic president since Johnson, even when that support was undeserved (see Bill Clinton). Moreover, like the vast majority of voters, African Americans aren't engaged with the policy disputes that drive (elite) progressive disillusionment with the president. Like Republicans and their base voters, Obama's relationship with the black community is partly based in partisanship and partly based in cultural affinity. To them, a primary challenge looks less like principled objection and more like an attack from white liberals, who could put up with worse from white presidents but won't hesitate to turn their backs on the first black one.

Black anger over a primary would quickly end their loyalty to the Democratic Party and doom the party in national elections for as long as they stay at arm's length. After all, without high African American turnout (roughly proportional to their share of the total population) and astronomical African American support (85 percent-plus), Democrats can't win the presidency. They can't win Florida, they can't win Ohio, they can't win Pennsylvania, and they certainly can't win newly competitive states like Virginia and North Carolina. What's more, they'd have a hard time winning the Senate, because without black voters in their camp, Democrats couldn't win seats in any of the mentioned states.

Clearly, a primary challenge is extremely unlikely. But anyone who supports the idea should think about the consequences for the party at large. Is sticking it to Obama really worth giving the GOP a generation of easy presidential victories?

-- Jamelle Bouie

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