Barack Obama is our next President
After watching coverage of last night's "Potomac Primaries" and seeing the results, as well as heeding the numbers as they were crunched, I have no problem making such a bold statement.
Here's my opinion as to why it's come to this. It's VERY long, so for our more harried readers or those who simply want to cut to the chase, there's a very brief summation at the bottom and you can scroll to that.
If you've got a few minutes and are so daring as to risk actually considering my thoughts on the matter, read on.
Hillary Clinton's campaign is beginning to take on the aura of a tragedy, a seriously sad lost opportunity. A woman so eminently qualified, who has literally spent her entire life working and sacrificing to nearly super-human levels in her political career as well as her husband's, poised only a short time ago as being a near certain first female President of the United States, now inspiring the hoards of pundits and prognosticators to adopt an almost deathwatch mentality about her campaign.
Obama and Clinton are both such excellent candidates, each for their own reasons, not the least of which are the historical firsts they each represent. In that respect alone, I've long dreaded seeing one of them lose, as was inevitable. I could only hope that it was somewhat gentle and dignified, though losing such a hard-fought battle can never be anything but devastating.
If it's clear that Obama is the nominee, then at least initially, the great enthusiasm of that result will be tempered by the realization that Hillary Clinton lost. A woman who, if the Dems ran the party like the Republicans, would have been a lock, due to it being "her turn" so to speak, a person who's paid her dues in the trenches and then some. The most viable candidate in history to have a real chance at becoming this country's first female president, a result that would have heartened women around the world and reflected well on us as a nation. And that dream will be dead, at least for the moment, with no assurance that it will come again anytime soon.
Without going too far into the numbers and calculus of the thing, it appears now that Clinton will need to rack up nearly impossible margins of victory in the few states she still seems likely to win in order to emerge with enough pledged or regular delegates to then make it plausible for super delegates to give her the nomination. Number crunchers estimated that she'd need to win with a 60% or better plurality in Texas and Ohio to accomplish this.
If she emerges after these primaries trailing Obama by only a slim margin, it might allow the super-delegates to consider voting her way. But if it proves that she's behind by a considerable amount, that makes it that much tougher for super-delegates to then turn around and hand the nomination to her without risking an enormous firestorm of protest, a situation that all wish to avoid.
With staff being replaced and leaving, the whiff of money woes, and Obama's string of victories in the last two rounds of caucuses and primaries, it's allowing the pundits to begin sticking a fork in her campaign, as they did so consistently and often last night. One would pop up and try to urge moderation by saying that she's been down before and one should never count her out, but this was consistently overruled by assertions that Clinton is in deep, deep, trouble.
Why did Clinton falter when, after all, she was considered a mortal lock for the Dem nomination, flush with cash, at the controls of this huge and nearly unstoppable party organization nationwide, connections up the wazoo, and on and on?
Her campaign was simply too slow on the draw.
When the competing messages were shaping up as change vs. experience, I could see that was net loser for Clinton. People would argue that they wanted change, therefore, were supporting Obama.
I realized at the time and even observed here on more than one occasion that experience does NOT mean that you can't effect change, the ideas are clearly not mutually exclusive. That fact should be obvious, yet the Clintons were asleep at the switch, and allowed these competing themes to become entrenched, and allowed Obama to suggest that because she was "experienced", that therefore she couldn't, or wouldn't, bring the much needed "change" to the nation's politics.
Despite having the argument that you have GOT to have vast experience at working the levers of power in D.C. in order to bring about change, and therefore she was far better suited to get actual results than someone who could be portrayed as still wet behind the ears in navigating the corridors of power in the nation's capitol, she was effectively boxed in and silenced.
If she had been able to simply articulate this plainly, she could have effectively neutralized, or at least stalled, Obama’s' wildly successful premise that he was the only one truly capable of bring change, a premise upon which he's built his entire appeal.
Clinton let Obama steal a march.
Perhaps they were lulled by a false confidence. Perhaps they simply picked experience as a theme and were just too rigidly wedded to message discipline to be able to change or alter it on the fly. Who knows?
Though she tried to inject "change" into her message, sometimes to an almost comic degree as she did during one particular debate when she talked about how experienced she was at "making change" so repetitively it was as though she were running for laundromat attendant, not president of the United States.
But by then it was too late, and again, she didn't make the simple argument that you need experience in order to make things happen in D.C. They were apparently so scared of even mentioning her experience in Washington, fearing, rightly, that Obama would use it to further paint her as a creature of the "old" politics, that she was boxed in completely.
She couldn't make her case without having to weasel around it, she couldn't simply state that she had the experience in government to actually bring about change, rather than simply call for it.
And more than any other factor, Clinton simply has the historically tragic fate (for the chance of a woman president) of running against Barack Obama.
Despite the thousands of excuses or opinions of how Clinton lost the race (as I believe she will) the simplest and truest reason will likely be lost. The bottom line is that Obama was just more appealing to more people. It's not rocket science.
Despite the media obsession on slicing and dicing exit poll data and carving us up into nice, neat little demographic categories, reading the tea leaves and pronouncing the significance of how candidate X did with lower income rural white female college educated Lutherans, in the end, none of it matters.
Her opponent outdoes her on nearly every level, and brings more electricfying enthusiasm, crowds, devotion, and inspiration, than has been witnessed in generations. Obama represents something larger than himself, a powerful yearning for change away from the right wing politics that has so damaged our national mental health by promoting division and fear.
To her vast credit, Hillary has in effect been the underdog all along, but no one knew it yet. Obama is a phenomenon that would be hard for anyone to compete with. (It would be really tough for Abraham Lincoln to compete. (He'd probably never make it past Iowa these days. Too liberal, too ugly (ewwww! A mole!) and what's with that beard?! And the Republicans would run with the fact he once lived with another man and they slept in the same bed.)
The fact that Clinton has made it as close as it is serves as testament to her skill, savvy, intelligence, and drive. But in a race where even the smallest missteps can be incredibly costly, she's made a few, and that may end up being the difference.
If Clinton doesn't prevail, there will be thousands of post-mortems. Just thought I'd get mine in early.
More people find Obama appealing, more people agree with his message, and more people voted for him. Real simple.
In Obama's case, I sincerely don't think race and gender played nearly as large a role as some suggest. And even allowing for that, Clinton more than offset any racial advantage for Obama with her wide, but increasingly dwindling, edge with women voters.
Obama has been cutting steadily into every group which Clinton was relying on, particularly women and Latinos. This shows that their support of Clinton wasn't really strong, and to Obama's obvious gifts of persuasion.
Clinton wants a ton of debates, and no wonder. She generally does well in them, and they're her only opportunity to truly showcase her vast knowledge on policy issues which might highlight perhaps the biggest gripe about Obama, the "Where's the Beef" factor, for lack of a better way of putting it.
Obama, sensing his front runner status though hoping to avoid that label, is seeking to limit the number of debates, currently set at only two more, I believe.
Everyone calls for Obama to be more specific on policy questions, but as Pat Buchanan rightly points out, why the hell do you want to start doing that when you're moving the ball down the field and everything's rolling your way? Sure, it's helpful, and even essential in giving voters a reason to vote for you, but when they're already voting for you, why risk it? When you're riding a huge balloon, why pass out pins?
The post election speeches and their coverage really gave a snapshot into the reality at play here.
Poor Hillary had to come out on stage at an event in El Paso, TX. (She’s apparently conceding WI and not campaigning there, which will likely prove costly in my opinion).
Then some overstuffed local pol, a congressman, who will forever be known in my mind as the asshole from El Paso, stood there wandering around the stage delivering nearly Clinton's entire stump speech and trying to rally a crowd which was already going nuts (After all, Clinton is standing RIGHT THERE.)
But this guy didn't get it. It would have taken the jaws of life to get the microphone out of his hands. He went ON, and ON, and ON, and ON, and ON, and ON. All the while leaving Hillary standing there awkwardly with nothing whatsoever to do as he turned his back on her and wandered around the stage as if it was HE these people had come to see. It was pathetic. This went on for about 7 full minutes as the networks had pundits babble to take up time until this wad finally remembered that there was a presidential candidate on stage with him and reluctantly gave up the microphone.
By that time, the crowd was sick of cheering and likely exhausted by this blowhard, but they gamely cheered Hillary when she was finally allowed to speak.
But then what emerged was nothing but her standard stump speech. Very lackluster after such a long wait. The crowd was enthusiastic, but not overly so. It resembled the typical, old style, boring as hell, nature of the typical political rally where everything seems forced and unnatural. You know, the kind where the candidate could say that they'd just gotten done eating their first born child and the crowd would reflexively cheer and wave their signs. (Many upside down of course.)
Then to add further indignity, they cut away from Hillary mid-speech (again likely due to the asshole from El Paso's interminable "introduction".) and went to the enormous and wildly enthusiastic crowd at a gigantic arena in Madison, WI where Obama was bounding to the stage.
His speech was largely composed of his standard stump speech, but with some new material added which was every bit as powerful as people have come to expect. This time he gently swiped at McCain, tying him to Bush on several issues. And perhaps more importantly, he did a fantastic job of both acknowledging and effectively dismissing the charge that he's just a pie-in-the-sky idealist, and taking on those who mock his idea of hope for the country.
He lay out in stirring terms that hope was a real thing in this country, and that without hope; we would not be the great nation we are today, listing a long list of historical accomplishments which began with hope for a better tomorrow. He effectively turned it back on those cynics by saying that cynicism is a sad outlook, and pounded away repeatedly that following that sense of hope will not be easy or quick, but require very hard work and dedication.
By merely mentioning that this year, George W. Bush won't be on the ballot, the crowd erupted into such a loud cheer that the microphones were overloaded and started cutting out. Even in such a huge arena, you could literally hear the rafters ringing.
Obama repeated his recent call to young people to get involved. Perhaps the loudest frenzied cheering of the night occurred after he'd said he would propose a $5000 grant to help with college tuition, BUT that it wouldn't come free, that young people would have to pay it back by serving at homeless shelters, joining the Peace Corps, or putting in time on other civic duties. In exchange for the country investing in them (young people), they'd invest in their country.
Rather than shocking the supposedly slacker generation, this demand for them to take a stake in the country elicited a thunderous cheer, as it has every time it's mentioned in Obama's speeches. It's hard to imagine anything more heartening that the realization that young people in this country not only don't mind pitching in, they seem to desperately WANT to do their part, to become involved in improving people's lives and making this a better country. But no one had ever asked them to. Until now.
Obama says to the young essentially, "I'm going to put you to work." and they go absolutely wild in enthusiastic approval. Young people have never been asked to be involved, to become stake-holders in the future of this nation. Why no one has bothered to do this for decades is almost unbelievable. Obama realized that these young people were just sitting around waiting for someone to recognize them, to take them seriously, to ask them for their help.
Why have candidates routinely all but ignored young voters in the past? I can only conclude that it's largely due to the fact that they can't cut huge checks to campaigns, and in that respect, those who haven't focused on them deserve to be beaten, as Obama deserves their support for having the vision and foresight to realize what an untapped resource they truly are. And boy are they responding, and in numbers that should make every American proud.
That is yet another reason Obama will be the next president. And not only that, but why the Democrats will enjoy an even larger advantage for decades to come. Obama asked these young people to participate, and they gladly responded... by becoming Democrats.
Then after that cacophonous reception and such a stirring speech that even Chris Matthews said that it gave him, "chills running up and down my leg". (Not sure I want to go there.) we were treated to what had to be one of the oddest, most incomprehensible speeches of this campaign by John McCain.
Standing on a small platform was this fossil (by comparison with Obama) and as if to purposely highlight the theme of old age, just behind him stood one of the few guys older than he is, the pompous Sen. Warner from Virginia, along with a bevy of lily-white, paunchy, Republican party hacks.
But McCain's speech was .. I'm not sure how to describe it other than it was simply incomprehensible and seemed to contradict itself on several occasions.
I guess I just don't understand conservative code or something, but it simply didn't seem to make any sense.
He, I guess, tried to take some swipes at Obama by suggesting that … I don't know… that he was in it for personal glory or some weird thing. He keep jumping around from extolling personal responsibility and that politicians didn't come to D.C. to help out individuals, but voters expected politicians to work for voters personal interests, ... I'm sorry, but it truly made little sense.
Perhaps the more whacky thing was when at one point McCain seemed to take a whack at Obama's message of hope and healing by saying that if you simply say those sorts of things without them being "backed up by proven and solid ideas" then they're nothing but "platitudes".
McCain then proceeded to launch into an almost unbroken string of platitudes in which he spouted pre-fab lines about freedom, liberty, justice, strength, prosperity, and who knows what other incredibly oblique terms.
McCain looks as dry as dust, and his words fell out of his mouth as dry as dust.
Pat Buchanan said it sounded more like he was briefing a flight crew than giving a critical political speech.
I'm already sick to death of his "my friends" rhetorical device, and I'm sure it won't be long before many people pick this up as emblematic of McCain's phoniness. Coming out of McCain's mouth, "my friends" sounds like a veiled threat.
And aren't Obama's "platitudes" proven ideas? Or are only McCain's ideas not "platitudes"? By proven ideas, does he mean things like throwing good billions after bad and thinking the world's problems can only be solved by sending in thousands of troops and billions in weapons? Is he telling us that the Bush ideas he enthusiastically endorses are the "proven ideas" he intends to follow?
McCain is truly the anti-Obama, as in the opposite of positive is negative; the opposite of light is darkness.
Cliff notes summation post-Tuesday February 12th primary:
Clinton is sliding, and Obama is ascendant. I don't see this changing, and Clinton's last few life boats are increasingly drifting away. Obama wins the nomination.
McCain is pathetic next to Obama, both visually, thematically, inspirationally, and on issues. McCain = old, really old, the past, endless war, Bush's third term. Obama = the future, youth, hope, change, restoration.
While the usual Republican reliance on smear, lies, voter suppression and pouring millions into negative campaign ads and attempts to invent negatives for Obama will make it competitive, Obama walks away and wins by a convincing margin in November.
Obama is our new president, the country rejoices, not only that Obama is our leader, but that the truly horrid and incompetent leaders of the past Republican era are swept out, repudiated, and out of our faces, along with their negative and destructive mindset that has brought nothing but shame and hardship on this country, amid the return of hope that we can recover, stick a fork in the negative Bush/Rove politics of fear and division, lead the country by explaining why we can do better, not why we can't. Offer the real hope that collectively, we can haul this ship of state off the rocks and usher in a new and brighter era of politics and American leadership around the world.
If you build it, they will come.