by Frank Schnittger
Wed Mar 26th, 2008 at 02:45:56 PM EST
Can Obama win the nomination and re-unite the Democratic party? Can he regain the support of the white working class and other ethnic minorities put off by the (alleged) rhetorical excesses of Rev. Wright? Will Hilary continue to damage all she has allegedly stood for all these years? Will McCain defy age, recession, logic and political gravity and pull off an unlikely Republican win? Is the Obama movement for change destined to go the way of so many before - Eugene McCarthy, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry - or worse, the way of Martin Luther King, JFK and RFK?
Following Edward's defeat, the Progressive or Liberal blogosphere has swung almost entirely behind Obama, helped in no small measure by what are perceived as negative campaigning tactics by the Clinton clan. Obama's speech on Race (and patriotism) was perhaps the most eloquent since Martin Luther King and JFK spoke to, if not entirely for, the nation.
The irony of all this is that the Clintons' had, all through their political lives, sought to be the inheritors of the JFK Mantle. How bitter they must feel, that they have now painted themselves into the opposite corner of the ring.
Meanwhile McCain has sown up the Republican nomination, despite not really being regarded as a true conservative by the true believers. He has shown remarkable resilience even as the Bush war economy has tumbled all around the Republican base. He is the only Republican contender with any prospect of attracting independents and winning the Presidency, and his success has really put in up to the Democratic Party - can they heal the wounds of an increasingly bitter and divisive campaign, and unite in time for the November General Election?
Given that Clinton had all the advantages of a commanding early lead in the polls, name recognition, and establishment support, Obama's performance has been nothing short of remarkable. He now stands in the centre ground of the Democratic historic liberal traditions, with Clinton an increasingly desperate outsider. However it is a long time since a liberal Democrat has won the Presidency.
And yet Clinton can still win the Democratic nomination - even if her own supporters only give her a 10% chance. The Wright rhetoric is bound to damage Obama with the white and other minority working class vote, and this is precisely the sort of vote that Obama needs to pick up if he is to beat McCain. However if the reaction of liberal blogosphere is anything to go by, Clinton has damaged herself even more by seeking to exploit the issue.
Thus is Clinton doing McCain's dirty work for him, and mortally wounding the best candidate the Democratic centre and left have had in a generation? It seems extraordinary that any Republican could still have a chance of winning, particularly one with so little business, economic or administrative experience.
As the recession deepens, Iraq and McCain's military background will seem increasingly part of the past rather than part of the future. And yet can the Democrats get it together in time to mount an effective national election campaign?
If the Democrats cannot unite their own party, how credible will be their claim to unite the country? If Obama is successfully framed as (an albeit eloquent) black politician, what chance has he to fulfill the inclusive post racist vision he has so consistently articulated?
I take a somewhat more sanguine view of all of the controversies than many of our US friends. This sort of controversy is par for the course for most US elections and the issues in November will be quite different. Often the problem is not the crisis itself, but how a candidate responds to it. So far Obama has hardly put a foot wrong. If anything, Clinton is merely pre-empting the attacks the Republicans will be mounting in any case. It may be just as well that the damage is suffered now rather than just prior to the election when there is much less time to recover.
The controversy has helped to mobilise the Democrats as never before, and McCain could find his slim lead evaporating very quickly if the Democrats re-unite at the convention or before. However as many as 28% of Clinton supporters say they will vote McCain rather than Obama if Obama wins the nomination - and 19% of Obama supporters feel the same way about Clinton. So the crucial issue is: can the Democratic split be mended in time?
On the (90%+) assumption that Obama does gain the nomination, it all now depends on how Clinton and her supporters react to her defeat. It seems most unlikely that she will accept the Vice Presidential slot even if it were offered. If her own rhetoric is to be believed she virtually had that role during her husbands Presidency, and who wants to live in the gate lodge having been the Lady of the Manor?
However for all her increasingly desperate attempts to win the main prize, it would be unwise to underestimate Hilary the survivor, Hilary the political pro, Hilary who stayed loyal to Bill even during his most bitter betrayal. For all the bile now being directed at her, I think she will accept defeat graciously and give political support generously to Obama in those demographics he needs to win.
An Obama/Clinton ticket may be an unlikely, though not impossible outcome for all manner of reasons, but don't think for a moment that Clinton wants to court infamy by facilitating a Republican win. Both Obama and Clinton are a lot bigger than many of their more fanatical supporters would have you believe. The Democratic Party may be continually wrestling with its conscience, but the Democratic Party will win...