After the party’s over and the balloons have been packed away, we can tentatively mark Super-Tuesday as the day the tide turned again for Barack Obama. Yes there’s still a to-the-death contest being fought between the Clinton and Obama camps. But last Tuesday, the Clinton machine stalled and there’s every chance that the Democrats, and even the super-delegates, will pick a winning candidate against a proven political liability.
Hilary Clinton is a formidable woman and you do get two for the price of one if you vote for her. But the question Democrats need to keep banging their head against a wall to answer is will she win a presidential election? What is their gut telling them? Looking at it another way, Hilary has already proven herself to be unpopular in President Clinton’s first term and she had many observers wondering why she stuck around with Bill at all. Of course the answer became obvious when she began her long climb of for the nomination. Let’s ask some questions of Hillary’s constituency again, namely Blue Collar, Professional Older Feminists and Latinos. Do you want another four years of a Republican administration? Do you really think moderates, independents and the undecided are going to go for Hilary over John McCain when deciding who they’d rather have as a boss? Who is the candidate they’d trust or admire for their principles? And who of those two inspires people with their personal story? A man captured and tortured by the Viet Cong or a woman, albeit an extremely intelligent and focused one, who was married to a former President? The response should be clear but Democrats may go for another Dukakis, Mondale wonk just to spite the media. That could be a very costly mistake.
Obama’s advantages are numerous. Like McCain, he embodies aspects of the American Dream, the narrative of triumph over adversity. He also personifies another dream, that of Dr King, who believed that one day colour and race would no longer matter. Despite the reality that it does have an impact on voting perceptions, race is not an issue of Obama’s making. His inspirational message, to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, is the message – this is no ordinary politician, but a charismatic ambassador for American democracy. This has been noted abroad where Obama has been praised for projecting American ‘Soft Power’ –democratic ideals, civic virtue, the power of inspirational rhetoric. He is the moderate who can take on McCain and win. The polls show this, commentators believe it and registered Democrats have an opportunity to make this dream come through. Clinton supporters say that Obama is all style and no substance as though their own candidate is a latter day Adlai Stevenson. For Obama, style and substance are as interwoven as the dancer and the dance.
If we look ahead and forecast an Obama nomination, what sort of contest would it be? There are indications that McCain will not try to ‘swift-boat’ or hit below the belt too frequently. Of course he wants to be President but having been slimed by Karl Rove in 2000, he’s should be more reluctant than previous Republican candidates to deploy nefarious electoral tactics. That’s not to say there won’t be dirty tricks from both sides just that the frequency of these events may be a lot less than previous elections. The Clinton team warn us gravely that Barack’s coke use will be the least of his worries if he is the nominee. Really? You mean there aren’t dozens of dumper trucks waiting to off-load their sludge on Hilary if she’s nominated? That she isn’t carrying any baggage?
If Obama is nominated, we can look forward to an articulate contest of about real issues: Iraq, the role of Government, US Foreign Policy, Economic strategy, civil liberties and youth versus experience. If Hilary gets the vote, Bill becomes one of the issues, politics (après les Bushs) gives way to dynastic succession and the Democrats show that they’re in denial once again. The Democrats need to keep their eyes on the prize.