Competition and dissent in politics are good — they ensure that no single party or idea becomes so entrenched that it ceases to evolve. The 2008 presidential primaries have been an enormous boon to American political thought because they have forced candidates and the public to think about policy issues with a differentiating eye. The more numerous and better qualified presidential candidates are, the healthier American politics will be, in spite of the sub-party divisions that these races create.
In a sense then, it is unfortunate that the Republican nomination is all but confirmed for McCain – not because he doesn’t deserve our votes and respect, but because his presumptive win will stifle further debate among Republicans about what they desire from their candidate. Meanwhile, both Obama and Clinton have been strengthened by their fight for dominance, and although the Democratic party is momentarily fractured, it will emerge from this race with a sounder grasp of itself and of the will of the American people than it has possessed in many years.
With that in mind, let’s turn to the General Election, where political debate can generally be reduced to two questions: ‘Do you prefer red or blue?’ and ‘Do you like to win?’
Unless Barack Obama’s momentum fails, it now appears that the 2008 Democratic Presidential Nomintation will be his. Even the New York Times, which has consistently favored Clinton in its superdelegate projections, grudgingly acknowledges that Obama is currently in the lead. While the upcoming primaries in Texas and Ohio could swing marginally in Clinton’s favor, it seems unlikely that the winds of ‘change’ will cease to erode the Clinton family’s fortunes. What’s a smart, powerful woman like Clinton, with millions of campaign dollars to her name, to do?
Time and again, Clinton has proven that she is dedicated to the welfare of the American people, and that she is prepared to be a strong and forceful leader, acting always in the interests of her supporters. But therein lies the problem – Clinton is so completely tied to interests, including her own interests, that she has lost all credibility with people who don’t share those interests. Clinton is a natural and powerful negotiator, but her passion for intricate plans on issues like health care make many moderates and nearly all conservatives queasy. (See her fully-earmarked economic ‘stimulus’ plan, for an example of her command-and-control tendencies) With such acrimonious history as hers, it is very unlikely that Clinton could win a general election against John McCain.
Barack Obama offers ‘audacious’ hope to liberals and moderates alike, and is by every indication a true leader; which cannot be said of most politicians. His recent introduction to the senate has spared him the necessity of defining himself narrowly, and his intellectualism suggests that, when presented with difficult decisions, he will seek the best advice and follow it. Obama’s glittering generalities are indicative of his strength as a visionary leader, whereas Clinton’s tiresome anecdotal specificities portray her as a capable administrator.
The strengths and weaknesses of these candidates are complimentary. Obama clearly belongs in the oval office, as the figurehead of the United States and as our decision maker of last-resort. Clinton belongs at the head of the senate, where her aptitude and great influence are put to their best use, for her party and for America. Obama and Clinton agree on many issues already, and could plausibly settle or downplay their differences on others. Accepting the role of Vice-President would be a blow to Clinton’s ego, but if it is truly her desire to serve, she should accept the role for which she seems to have been created. Although the Vice-President’s oft-delegated senatorial role is generally overlooked, Clinton’s connections and reputation could allow her to instill new power in that role, and her intimate knowledge of Washington would be extremely valuable to Obama after he is elected.
If Obama faced McCain alone, he could win – but that outcome is presently far from certain. With Clinton on his ticket, Obama would alienate some of the conservatives cast to him by Bush’s wake, but he would gain the unified support of his party and the substantial buying power of the Clinton campaign. As a presidential candidate, Clinton risks galvanizing the conservative base against her, but as a vice-presidential candidate, she may be a greater asset to her party than a liability. McCain’s support with evangelicals is weak, but his appeal to moderates is great. Compared to Clinton, McCain is a bipartisan avenger and a war hero; compared to Obama, he appears wise, but terribly old. Obama’s vision and idealism combined with Clinton’s competence and connections could be a winning combination.