Hillary Clinton has risen from the dead more times that Count Dracula. She’s sending shudders down the Democratic establishment. However, the more primaries she wins the less popular she becomes. Indeed, with Hillary’s likeability rating hovering around 35% -- a virtual untenable number for a candidate who hopes to win the presidency – her only shot at winning the Democratic nomination lies in tarnishing Obama. Hence the paradox, the better she does against Obama the more despised she becomes among the younger and better-educated voters that represent the future of the Democratic Party.
Hillary is drawing kudos from conservative commentators for her tenacity. Her single-minded willingness to fracture her party in order to win the nomination is reminiscent of George W. Bush’s obsessive quest to "win" in Iraq even if it means destroying the U.S. military, the dollar and America’s strategic position. The scorched-earth self-righteous obliviousness of the two "leaders" is more than a little eerie. No wonder right-wing pundits are singing Hillary’s praises; they recognize in her a kindred spirit.
Hillary’s penchant for distorting the truth, her top-down management style, her us vs. them outlook and her proclivity to pander to the lowest common denominator make her seem like a liberal mirror-image of that discredited "compassionate conservative," George W. Bush. I don’t believe the United States can withstand another four to eight years with a polarizing politician who has trouble acknowledging the truth and can never admit they’re wrong.
Hillary, however, has exposed significant weaknesses in Obama’s candidacy. The first African American candidate with a chance at winning the presidency has trouble connecting with the so-called Reagan Democrats. I’d like to think this has more to do with the fact that many of the blue-collar workers that have trouble with Obama are anti-intellectual rather than racially bigoted. To be fair, Hillary also has to contend with stereotypes and misogynistic attitudes that unfairly hamper her ability to be judged on the basis of her message, record and character.
Hillary probably cannot catch Obama in terms of the pledged delegates or the popular vote count. But her efforts to pin the "elitist" label on her rival could well cost Democrats the election in November. It would be a catastrophe for the Democratic Party, the country and progressive values if the Clinton’s perpetual selfishness helps hand the White House to George Bush’s designated successor, John McCain. The best way to avoid political suicide -- particularly if Obama cannot convincingly close the deal in the remaining contests – would be for Democrats to turn to Al Gore to head the ticket with Obama as his running mate.
For those of us who support Obama – and see in him the potential to be a great president and a champion for progressive values – a decision on his part to accept the vice-presidential nomination would be disappointment, unless Al Gore headed the ticket. But a decision of that kind on his part would be in keeping with the kind of character Obama has displayed; he would be putting the needs of his country and his party above his own. More importantly, a Gore/Obama ticket would almost certainly present the most formidable team the Democrat’s could field in 2008. Indeed, a Gore/Obama victory would put the final nail in the coffin of the catastrophically tragic Bush era.
Presidential campaigns need to articulate grand narratives. Hillary has failed to do this. Indeed, it seems woefully clear that she lacks the capacity to be a figure that educates the public. Gore and Obama, however, are both leaders with the kind of vision and judgment to chart a new course for the United States after the debacle of Bush’s failed presidency. They were the only two major figures in the Democratic Party, incidentally, to speak out forcefully against the Iraq War, the torture and abuse sanctioned by the Bush administration and Bush’s other abuses of power. Hillary loses my respect when she refers to Obama’s prescience on the war as "just a speech." Speaking out against the war was an act of political courage, a quality that is difficult to associate with the competent but dismayingly prosaic and politically expedient Clintons.Electing Gore and Obama would signal to the world that America has atoned for the morally hideous aberration of Bush/Cheney. Neither the seventy-one year old McCain nor the baggage-saddled Clinton has quite what it takes to turn the page the way Gore and Obama would.