Monday, March 31, 2008

Mr. Obama and the Democratic Unity

It has become readily clear that Hillary Clinton will not win the nomination. As such, she must step aside to smooth the path for Barack Obama so that he can begin the long term healing process within the Democratic Party. This primary has opened up deep divisions within the party, something that, I imagine, took party leaders by surprise, and has turned out to be quite a debacle. But since they are here, the Democratic Party must take strides to address this. Just as the primary has opened these wounds, the primary must also serve to heal them. This primary, now, isn’t so much about getting a Democratic candidate into the White House; so much as it is getting Democrats on the same page to vote in November. As such, Mrs. Clinton should step aside to allow for Mr. Obama, the default candidate, to begin this process.

By no means should this be considered a "victory" by Mr. Obama and his supporters. . This has been such a competitive race between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, that any such declarations of "victory" by one camp might necessarily imply the other is the "loser." Losers tend to be disheartened. And "losers" tend to not come out to the polls to vote. Indeed, Mr. Obama now faces the difficult task of convince the Clinton supporters to support him. This is something he has not been able to do over the course of the past few months, and, now that polls suggest that supporters are clearly entrenched, will not make it any easier.

Mr. Obama needs to bargain with Mrs. Clinton’s supporters begins. By bargain, I mean that Mr. Obama needs to adjust his message to suit Mrs. Clinton’s followers. Mr. Obama needs to alter his message, to find a point to where Obama retains his own "voice" but also incorporates Mrs. Clinton's "voice." Mr. Obama cannot simply be the "anti-Hillary."

Nor do have his messages of “hope” worked. Mr. Obama needs to take a more pragmatic, less “high minded” approach to Mrs. Clinton’s supporters. He needs to climb down from the academic ivory tower and speak the language of blue collar workers, Hispanics, and the elderly: less liberal and more jobs and health care. How he can integrate that into his current message will be quite a challenge for him.

How then, does Mr. Obama bargain with Hillary's supporters, to make them feel like, despite not being able to vote in November for the candidate of their choice, they're still getting a "good deal"? How does Obama invite blue collar workers and minorities into his coalition when he hasn't been able to do so already? He can’t do this by simply attacking Hillary. They clearly support Hillary, so any more attacks might simply press them to dig in their heels more. Mr. Obama needs to find the right message but he can’t do that while trading barbs with Hillary supporters. The name calling needs to stop and the real work of building a coalition needs to get done.

How then, does Mr. Obama win over Mrs. Clinton’s supporters? There are two schools of thought on this.

The first is that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama continue to duke it out. While this is happening, Mr. Obama continues to find a way to reach out to these communities and tweak his message, in the hopes that he eventually these voting blocs come to realize on their own that Mr. Obama, is indeed, the right candidate for the Democratic party.

The obvious problem with this is that this is what he’s been trying to do and, so far, this isn’t working. In addition, the more this continues, the greater chance that, instead of gaining Mrs. Clinton’s voters, Mr. Obama provides more fodder for the press and the Republican Party, and risks alienating voters who are tired of two of the politicking between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.

The second option is simply for Mrs. Clinton to resign. In this scenario, the Democratic Party would cut its losses and at least stop the war. While it might put off some Hillary supporters indefinitely, it at least gives some time for Mr. Obama to claim his mantle and make more direct efforts to appease her supporters with the weight of the nomination behind him.

This follows a strategy similar to John McCain. While he doesn’t have the full support of the Republican Party, now that he has the Republican nomination as his bully pulpit, he can quietly go around the country meeting with Republicans who did not initially support him, in an attempt to sway them to his side.

The problem with this strategy is that the Republican nomination process did not have such deep divisions as the Democratic Party does. Because the hostilities in the Republican Party never existed, opposing party members might be more conciliatory at the bargaining table. Therefore, it’s more likely Mr. McCain will be able to gather the necessary support for November.

Mr. Obama faces a much more difficult task because the hostilities are deeper. Even still, Mrs. Clinton’s supporters will be hard to bargain with regardless. The key difference is that, with Mrs. Clinton resigning, he won’t have to fend off attacks from both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain, while supporting Hillary’s supporters. Just from McCain. This will allow him to focus his efforts on persuading Hillary’s supporters.

I opt for the latter strategy, Mrs. Clinton should step aside. Indeed, there are deep divisions within the Democratic Party, with each candidate representing various factions. This is a long term problem that may actually, never be solvable by the Democratic Party. I hate to say it, but Democrats might be too diverse right now. The Clintons had their chance in the 90s. They did a tremendous job in the White House and history will remember it. It is, however, time for someone else to get a shot at reconfiguring the Democratic Party. Mr. Clinton’s “third way” of governing has long since passed and it’s time for a new political theory on governance to take place.

While admittedly, I have yet to be persuaded by Mr. Obama, I am also not totally satisfied with Mrs. Clinton. In this, sense, I have supported Mrs. Clinton, simply by default. She’s a strong, competent candidate, who will do a solid job in the White House. However, I’m not sure if she’s the right person to lead the Democratic Party to form a new coalition.

Because I think unity within the party is important, Mr. Obama gets a nod, also by default: he’s simply someone other than Hillary. Can he provide the sound policy and legislative mastery that Mrs. Clinton has? This is clearly untested and is why I’m hesitant with Mr. Obama.

In the end though, long term objectives of party unity are more persuasive to me. While I’m still far from convinced about Mr. Obama’s chances in the short term, in November, I’m far less convinced about Mrs. Clinton’s chances in the long run.


Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

Welcome to the fold. Yes we can.

BMW said...

Mr. Obama must have read your post: