Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Random Thoughts on an Historic Night

We still won't have any results from today's primaries for a little while.

But CNN says Barack Obama needs only to claim four more delegates tonight --either in the primaries (and he's favored in both of them) or with the help of superdelegate commitments -- to secure the nomination.

  • Needless to say, it looks like the race for the nomination will end tonight, as the results from the last primaries come in.

    That makes this an historic night. Tonight, for the first time, a black man will address an audience as a major political party's presumptive presidential nominee.

    If nothing else, this campaign is shaping up to make a spectacular topic for this generation's Theodore H. White. Whoever he or she may be.

    White wrote a fantastic series of behind-the-scenes books, "The Making of the President," starting with the 1960 campaign between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon and proceeding with volumes about the 1964, 1968 and 1972 campaigns.

    I wish we could look forward to White's unique political insights in this campaign. But he's been gone for more than 20 years.

    Jules Witcover did a reasonably good job of trying to fill White's shoes with his book on the 1976 campaign, "Marathon," but no one has written White's kind of presidential election book in almost 40 years.

    The last time White did it.

    We're overdue.

  • Obama will wrap up the nomination only a few days shy of the 40th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's assassination.

    His achievement is doubly ironic when you realize that the night that Obama is supposed to accept his party's nomination in Denver will be the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

    I'm sure there were times when Dr. King permitted himself to dream of the day when a black man would be nominated by a major party for president.

    But I also believe that -- because of the times in which he lived -- Dr. King probably didn't dream of that day too much.

    When he was alive, it was enough of a challenge for Dr. King to strive for the right to vote, a decent wage, integrated schools, integrated housing, integrated public facilities.

  • I guess the presidential nomination means things have almost come full circle.

    To complete the circle, Obama needs to win in November.

    I believe that's a thing that is easier said than done.

    My hunch is that Obama's candidacy will turn out to be largely symbolic. But that's what I believe now. People and campaigns that have a lasting impact have a way of demonstrating that at their appointed time -- the way Gandhi did in India and the way Martin Luther King did in the United States.

    Part of what makes such a man and such a campaign truly significant is the ability to convince those who are as-yet unconvinced.

    So we'll see what happens in the next five months. That's an eternity in politics.

  • I saw Joe Madison on CNN a short time ago, and he was talking about how he hoped the debate wouldn't be on race.

    Hmmm.

    Seems to me that boat has already sailed.

    Sorry.

    It was always inevitable that race would be an issue in a campaign featuring the first black presidential nominee.

    Just as it's inevitable that the first woman to be nominated for president will have to contend with discussions about gender.

    Americans have come a long way on the subjects of race and gender, but they still have some issues that have to be resolved before a woman or a black can be elected president.

    Those demons will have to be exorcised in the fall campaign. And it will be a measure of Obama's presidential potential if he is able to put the race issue to rest fairly quickly and turn his attention to the real problems -- the war, the economy, health care.

  • About 35 million people voted in the Democratic primaries this year. When the general election is held, there should be well over 100 million people participating.

    In the race for the nomination, Obama faced a foe who shares most of his political views. Democrats weren't asked to choose between two different political philosophies.

    But the voters in the general election will be given a choice between two candidates who want to take the country in different directions. I just wonder if we'll ever get the chance to talk about the significant policy choices that will be offered to us this fall.

  • Of those 35 million votes, Clinton took about 18 million of them.

    Now, I don't expect many -- if any -- of Clinton's voters to vote for John McCain. But how many of them will choose not to vote at all?

    I know several women who are Clinton supporters. Most have sworn they will not vote at all if the choice is Obama-McCain. That's what they're saying right now. It remains to be seen how they will feel in November.

    But those votes could be critical if Obama wants to win in places like Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas -- where my friends live -- as well as all the other places on the map.

    I've heard talk and read articles about how many states Obama puts into play.

    But it seems to me those projections are based -- at least, in part -- on the very large assumption that Obama can rely on the backing of Clinton's supporters in November.

    So my question is -- how does one make up for the absence of 18 million votes?

  • Well, if it's any consolation, McCain will have his own issues to deal with.

    He would be wise not to rely on the automatic support of some groups of Republican voters.

    McCain will be 72 when the voters go to the polls in November. He has been criticized as not conservative enough. Social conservatives have made noises about boycotting the November election.

    Although it appears to be in remission, cancer has been an issue for McCain in recent years.

    And he himself has conceded that he doesn't know much about economic issues -- at a time when economic issues may be what truly fuels the presidential campaign.

    My thinking is there will be more than enough side issues on both sides to keep voters distracted from the important matters.

    Again.

2 comments:

Kyle said...

When things settle down (hopefully in a day or week or two), the Clinton backers should come to their senses. If not, and they actually vote for McCain, they can kiss goodbye some of their most treasured issues: legal abortion, aid for children and the poor, an end to the war, continued tax relief for the incredibly wealthy, etc.

I have a feeling they will come to their senses; hell, only once (Carter in 1980) has my original favorite candidate EVER won the nomination, but I continued to vote Democratic.

To not do so would be so against everything they believe in. If so, this "cult of personality" for Hillary Clinton would only be comparable to the unbelievable Mao cult of personality I saw in China. Everything Mao stood for in China has been turned on its head, yet they consider him their greatest leader (and China has over 2300 years of continued history -- that is a lot of leaders).

The point is it would be folly to expect a Clinton supporter to actually vote for McCain, or for a sizable number to stay away from the polls. Way too much is at stake for them (and us).

David said...

Just to clarify. I only reported what I've been told.

Whether those Clinton supporters -- or any Clinton supporters -- choose to skip the election entirely or vote for McCain rather than vote for Obama is something each of them will have to decide for themselves.