Let The Battle To Take Back America Begin
In the end, the protean Barack Obama did what was best for the Democratic Party in not declaring that it was over until he had clinched the requisite number of delegates while Hillary Clinton, smiling through gnashed teeth, refused to give the trailblazing nominee in waiting his due. Nevertheless, you can practically feel the tectonic plates of the political universal slide into alignment, and John McCain should be afraid. Very afraid.
Let’s first dispose of Mrs. Clinton. Please!
She blazed a trail of her own by squandering the opportunity to become the first woman presidential nominee of a major party by running a campaign that was equal parts ungracious and unconscienable. Her biggest nemesis? Not the upstart senator from Illinois or even the presumptive Republican nominee, but rather Bill Clinton, who to the very end was stepping on her lines and spent the closing days of an extraordinary 16-month battle in which Obama came from 30 points behind defending himself against new allegations that the womanizing that nearly brought down his own presidency – and that he and his wife have never satisfactorily addressed — continues apace.
Meanwhile, Obama’s momentum has been sapped and he is viewed with considerable suspicion by working-class whites and elderly voters – the bread and butter of Democratic politics — as well as the reality that while minorities have made enormous gains, America remains deeply racist. An endorsement from Mrs. Clinton, which will come sooner or later, will do little to alter that demographic mine field.
Nevertheless, there has not been an election in modern American history where the contrast between the two candidates is so stark: Obama representing hope and change and McCain a mockery of those notions, and for that reason alone it is likely that the next occupant of the Oval Office will be a relatively young African American and not a flip-flopping septuagenarian knockoff of a deeply reviled president.
Why should McCain be so afraid?
Because despite the fact Obama won only four of the last 10 primaries, he has energized an enormous and growing base while McCain barely has one. He has raised an extraordinary amount of money from small donors while McCain is being bailed out by the usual fat cats. His grassroots organizing skills, including the possibility that he will have a million volunteers on the street come Election Day, are vastly superior. And with the dubious exception of foreign policy, voters clearly favor Obama on the issues of the day – chief among them the war in Iraq, the economy and health care.
Beyond that, the next five months will be an epic generational battle. Obama will be continuously dogged by allegations that he lacks the requisite experience, as well as a litany of ridiculous negatives ranging from his pastor problem to whether his wife is patriotic enough, but these negatives will be neutralized by the odoriferous reality that McCain is a Washington insider beholden to special interests and in many respects a clone of George Bush.
The contrast between the candidates’ speeches last night could not have been more telling: McCain wrapping himself in the flag while delivering an ineptly somnambulant “You can believe in me” resume recitation and Clinton’s continuing and farcial insinuation that the election was stolen from her versus Obama’s self-effacing nod to his opponents past and future and his vow to lead the U.S. out of the wilderness.
When all was said and done, it was an historic night and one that I dearly wish that my civil-rights activist parents were alive to see. They would have wept tears of joy that their party had chosen a man whose forebears didn’t have the right to vote.
That dutifully noted, let the battle to take back America begin.