In the interest of full disclosure, I will first state I am a staunch supporter of Barack Obama. I truly believe him to be the salve needed for the wounds inflicted on this country by the Bush administration. He has both the charisma and the intellect to make a difference, a combination I haven’t seen since the early Bill Clinton years. Hillary, on the other hand, may have the “experience” (more on that later), but lacks the personality necessary to convince the two parties to work together to clean up the Bush mess. I know many people who would vote for Satan himself before voting for her.
But aside from that, I have been riveted by this primary season and the political discourse created by it. For the first time in quite a while, issues are the center of a political debate, not smear campaigns. Top news stories focus on our presidential race, not on Britney’s latest antics. I am lucky enough to work in an office with very informed and intellectually curious people, so having this wealth of political material to discuss is almost orgasmic. While there has been some dirt throwing (more on this later), it has been minimal in comparison to the very ugly campaign mounted by Bush against Kerry. All the candidates have kept the “attacks” mostly on their opponents’ platforms and where they stand on the issues, not on their personal lives. And even with the most recent questions of McCain’s relationship with a lobbyist, the media and the public have demanded more information and have really analyzed it’s merits. Such accusations in previous campaigns would have been accepted at face value and taken the focus away from the real issues. If for nothing else, we all should be grateful to the candidates for bringing real meat back to the political meal.
That being said, I now turn my attention to the Democratic race (because even if Huckabee hasn’t accepted it, the Republican race is over…someone please tell Chuck Norris to pass this message along to old Huckey). When Hillary announced her plans to run for president, most people saw her as the inevitable Democratic nominee. And her attitude pretty much reflected this “heir apparent” atmosphere in the Democratic party. And while Barack was seen as a shining star in the Democratic party, no one expected him to gain the support and momentum he has shown in the last several months. The Clinton camp particularly didn’t expect the African American vote (which Bill had practically sewn up during his presidency) to get behind him in such huge amounts. Nor did they expect the primary campaign to go on this long (evident by her $5 million loan to her own campaign…announced the same day Barack raised $3 million via the internet in one 24 hour period). Her key voter demographics (women, the rural population and the working class) are also deserting her as if she were the Titanic (the recent endorsements of Obama by key labor unions is a huge indicator of this). Her lack of charm has proven to be an impediment in debates and speeches, especially in comparison to Obama’s eloquent and almost Kennedy-esque style.
So how does the Clinton camp react? Reiterating her 35 years of experience (see George Will’s editorial on this very topic) and resorting to weak accusations of plagiarism. Her experience does not include running a large scale government like her husband’s gubernatorial experience prior to his run for presidency. It doesn’t include years of military service or even more than one term as a Senator. In fact, her record as a Senator doesn’t stand out as making her “ready on day one” as she repeats ad nauseam. Aside from the question about her experience is her camp’s response to Obama’s very effective campaign. Several comments from her camp have been seen as racist and have left a very sour taste in the African-American community. I used to have a large amount of respect for Bill Clinton. However, his behavior during his wife’s campaign has tainted my perception of him. I have always seen Hillary as a bit of a Lady MacBeth (I truly believe she would run over a passel of small babies if it meant more power for her), so her behavior comes as no surprise. But to see Bill resort to innuendoes of drug use and comments that feed into the “White Man’s Fear of the Black Man” leaves me incensed.
The final straw (and what made me take to this blog) was the Texas debates this evening. Again, the questions of plagiarism against Obama came up (show me a politician who writes every one of his speeches and I’ll show you a pig flying). Hillary took the opportunity to grasp at this very thin straw by saying Obama’s campaign is “Change you can xerox”. Not only was this comment a low blow, it was VERY poorly received by the debate audience. In fact, her overall performance at the debate was flaccid. The analysts have already declared Obama the winner of this debate, stating he was able to bring up his plan for change even amidst her attacks. Her lack of personality (she reminds me almost of Cruella Deville) was a serious handicap in this setting and the fact that she is sticking to a strategy that isn’t working only further hinders her. Where once Hillary thought she was the runaway Democratic nominee, she now must win both Texas and Ohio to stay in this fight. Bill Clinton even hinted at her withdrawal if she lost either state.
I’m not going to sit here and gloat (especially since the dust has not yet settled on the Democratic race) about Hillary’s downward spiral. But I am so glad Obama’s call for a change in the old political system is being heard. Hillary, in my opinion, represents the old Democratic party: listless, unyielding and ineffective. Obama, however, brings new life to a party that has been flailing about like a fish out of water for the last decade. And I believe that a campaign between McCain (whom I respect for the most part and who also concentrates on the issues instead of the backbiting of the old political guard) and Obama would be an excellent display of political issues and not swiftboating tactics. And at a time when the country will need to come together after the national disaster known as the Bush administration, a McCain/Obama race would be a welcome change of pace.