If character is destiny, there were two very different destinies for the Democratic Party, and perhaps the United States on stage in Los Angeles last week.Watching the debate between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, it was hard not to be impressed by Senator Clinton. She is way past poised, and has a center of gravity something like those long, low couches popular in the fifties and sixties.
In the weeks preceding the debate, the Clinton campaign used surrogates - including First Surrogate Bill Clinton – to try to slander Senator Obama with charges that he was a pothead, slumlord and ambitious. Clinton played the cards of both race and religious antagonism.
Yet, there Senator Clinton sat, making nice, as if nothing untoward had ever happened. And she easily turned aside the few tough questions that came her way.
And that is one reason to vote for Senator Obama and against Senator Clinton. Her conduct was reprehensible. But more, it is typical of the kind of politics America need to be done with.
What is the difference between a President Bush and chief advisor Karl Rove, who picked bogus fights to stir up division to keep the White House, and a candidate Clinton and chief advisor Bill Clinton who use race and religious antagonism to sow division and win the White House?
Whereas the Constitution makes the president the commander in chief of the armed forces, George Bush acts as if he is the commander in chief of the American people. And Senator Clinton positively glows when she uses the phrase “commander in chief,” in connection with her possible presidency.
Clearly, the Senator relishes the prospect of being in charge.
There is little reason to expect Senator Clinton to govern any differently than she has campaigned, because the only road to the White House for her is through a nasty general election that will later make compromise and consensus building impossible. She has set it up that way.
The Clinton campaign is already on the low road and will stay there. And if she becomes the Democratic nominee for president the eventual Republican candidate will either join her there, and possibly lose the election, or not join here there, get steamrolled and certainly lose.
The outcome will not be a president ready to govern on day one, but a presidency mired in rancor and resentment and unable to govern from day one. More of the same.
The Democrats are not a majority party, and their candidate will need independent and even Republican votes to get elected. Senator Obama is vastly more popular among independents than Senator Clinton, and is even liked by a majority of Republicans, whereas there are perhaps ten or fifteen Republicans who like Senator Clinton.
As important, Senator Obama is attracting huge numbers of younger voters of all races and both genders, and he will generate an enormous black vote. He could put the south back in the Democratic electoral column from which first Nixon, then Reagan prized it away.