The real answer, which Democratic voters are speaking loud and clear, is that we need both. A spirit of change PLUS deep experience equals something more than either alone. Change + Experience = Wisdom.
Wisdom is what will be required to address the quagmire in Iraq. Wisdom will be required to address an economy in a tailspin. And it is wisdom that can bridge partisan divides to solve health care and myriad social problems. Wisdom alone can turn the next four years into an opportunity for America to regain health and vibrancy and true our course as a country.
Experience, by itself, cannot break the gridlock of Washington and rekindle the dreams of the American people. Change, by itself, cannot navigate economic meltdown, environmental crisis, and overseas disasters. They need each other as complements and collaborators. The challenges on our nation’s agenda are simply too large for one principle to exclude the other. The world cannot afford for us to move too slowly nor to move unskillfully.
That is why the overarching message of recent Democatic primaries is that Obama and Clinton need to combine as a single ticket. Not only are they the recognized and beloved leaders of key Democratic constituencies, they carry complementary virtues and skills which will be absolutely essential in the next White House. Obama needs the vast experience of Clinton at his side daily if he is to step in as the wise leader we need now. And Clinton needs to acknowledge that she cannot lead the change the nation hungers for in the same way that Obama can.
My concern with Obama at the moment is that he appears to no longer be listening to the voters, voters who are sending him a clear message that they want Hillary as well. “Yes,” they are saying, “You are the presumed nominee. But we are still voting for Clinton because she represents what we need to see in our leader.” A 40-point victory over the presumed nominee in West Virginia is a clear message from the voters that simply must be listened to.
Instead, his campaign has focused its messages on the math of delegates and the pending competition with McCain, assuming these voters will fall in line once the nomination is secured.
This voter-deafness is a shadow side of the impulse towards change, which can become so absorbed in the battle to win that it forgets its core principles. In this case, Obama has vowed to bring the country together and yet he is not attempting to truly bring together the Democratic party together by committing to a combined ticket with Clinton if he is the nominee. He is hedging on the question and his campaign appears to lean towards lesser-known and potentially easier combinations. To me, this undermines my trust in his wisdom. With a leader of change at the helm as final decision-maker, you then absolutely need the most experienced people available to shape the process of change intelligently. Clinton has the White House experience that Obama needs at his side.
On the other side, Clinton, in her zeal to win, has moved down the slippery slope of changing the rules of engagement; where she once fully agreed that Florida and Michigan elections were invalid, she now attempts to change the rules to suit her own candidacy. This is an example of the political impulse towards power-at-all-costs that has undermined the trust of our country– it’s the shadow side of experience, which becomes fixated on only preserving power.
Both Obama and Clinton are being forced to grow in this race, as well as become more humbled by the task ahead. Clinton must acknowledge that Obama carries the mantle of leadership more powerfully than she does now – a relative unknown has beaten her formidable political establishment Obama needs to understand the limits to how effective a movement for change can be without experience at its side. He thus needs to acknowledge Clinton’s more extensive resume by putting aside any personal differences and naming her as his VP, which would demonstrate his real qualification to actually be the President.
If they were both to now commit to a combined ticket, whatever the outcome of the remaining months, the Democratic Party would not only come together sooner rather than later, it would also demonstrate the wisdom and ability to bridge divides that we truly will need in Washington for the next four years. That is the message that both candidates need to hear.