Howard Kurtz wrote yesterday that he hadn’t heard anyone demand Hillary Clinton’s withdrawal from the race for over a week, although events later proved that moot when Joe Andrews, former DNC chair under Bill broke very publicly with the Clintons. The calls have mostly ended, though, and for good reason; Barack Obama has stumbled badly over the last few weeks and hasn’t yet righted himself. With North Carolina slipping from his grasp and Hillary at least pulling even in national polling, some wonder whether the superdelegates shouldn’t pull rank after all and nominate Hillary for her electability.

However, the question remains about how that will affect the critical bloc of black voters who have been inordinately loyal to the Democrats. Will a convention decision to hand the nomination to Hillary create an irreparable schism?

Many black voters are making it very clear: They’re concerned that Barack Obama is going to be denied the Democratic presidential nomination that they see as rightfully his, and if that happens, a lot of them may stay home in November.

“It would hurt me not to vote,” said Charles Clark, an Indianapolis retiree. He’s thinking about leaving the presidential box on his ballot blank this fall if Hillary Clinton is the Democrats’ nominee. …

African-Americans have been the Democratic Party’s most reliable bloc, giving about 90 percent of their votes to former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in the last two presidential elections.

In a close election this year, an African-American exodus from the voting booth could be costly to Democrats, particularly in the South, where blacks are a large proportion of the electorate.

If Obama isn’t the nominee, “there would be a significant number of African-Americans who would stay home. They’re not voting for (presumptive Republican nominee) John McCain,” predicted David Bositis, a senior analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which researches black voting trends.

As it turns out, the McClatchy analysis finds that one of the biggest culprits in this fiasco is none other than James Carville. His unrepentant characterization of Bill Richardson as “Judas” for endorsing Obama recalled decades of paternalism for black and Hispanic voters. Vote like we tell you, the message read, and it stoked the resentment that came from white political leaders demanding loyalty from minority groups while denying them leadership roles for themselves.

Black voters see Obama as the legitimate winner of this process. Any move to deny him the top spot on the ticket will be viewed as illegitimate and a fraud, and they will walk, according to authors David Lightman and William Douglas. That is not an empty threat, and it could have consequences all the way down the ballot. While many of them might just skip voting for Hillary Clinton — a move that will doom the Democrats’ chances for taking the White House — some of them may not bother to vote at all. Their absence would create an impossible hurdle for Congressional and Senate candidates, as well as state and local races.

The DNC may have to choose the weaker candidate as a loss leader in order to save their candidates in Congress. If so, it will provide a fitting denouement to one of the strangest campaigns in American history.