There is still hope. On Mother's Day, Barack Obama could declare that bitter people cling to their mothers. Or, pandering to Kentucky voters in advance of their May 20 primary, Hillary Clinton could propose mandating that all Americans smoke. But short of such (by no means implausible) events, the race for the Democrats' presidential nomination appears to be over. Obama's won. Yet his victory may prove pyrrhic.
The junior senator from Illinois certainly would have been described between now and November as a neophyte who sat for 20 years in the church of a racist pastor; who wouldn't be in his position if he weren't black; who did drugs and very little else beyond giving a speech in 2002 opposing a war for which a state legislator didn't have to vote, etc., etc. All that would have been said eventually. But now it's already been said, not by John McCain, but by Obama's fellow Democrats.
The grueling primary campaign strengthened Hillary and weakened Barack. Last December, Clinton agreed to pay Mark Penn millions to tell voters that she was inevitable. Senator Clinton may have believed it, but Iowa caucus goers did not. They wanted change rather than a return from Elba to the not altogether glorious ‘90s. Hillary then played the Crying Game and managed to pull out New Hampshire, but Penn had no game plan - literally none - beyond Super Tuesday, so Obama racked up 11 straight victories that provided the delegate cushion he's been resting on ever since.
Then Hillary really did find her voice. She became a Republican. A red state-blue state battle was fought within the Democratic Party. For months there had been clumsy attempts by everyone from Bob Kerrey to Bob Johnson and Bill Clinton himself to play the race card. Turns out they didn't have to. Hillary's friends at ABC News (NBC was in the tank for Obama) aired tapes of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Instead of simply claiming that sitting in Wright's church was an attempt to build bridges within and beyond his Chicago community, Obama pulled a Claude Raines, claiming he had never heard God Damn America or Chickens Coming Home to Roost or any of Wright's other greatest hits, and further insisting that those "snippets" were being endlessly looped out of context. Then Rev. Wright graciously came forward to confirm that he had not been taken out of context, and that Obama was just saying what politicians have to say to get elected. Someday we may learn why Wright did that. Anger? Jealousy? Fear that electing a post-racial African American President would put the lie to Wright's claims that America is a racist nation? Probably all three.
Anyway, Obama suddenly lost his voice. And since, according to Clinton, a voice was pretty much all Obama ever had, it seemed that Hillary - the newly minted Reagan Democrat - might actually pull this out.
But Obama scored a sweeping win in North Carolina, and Clinton failed - even with help from Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos - to match that margin in Indiana. That should convince the 200 or so super delegates Obama still needs that he's their man, however much he's been muddied and bloodied by this internecine fight.
The great news for Obama is that the Democratic primaries have attracted voters in droves, including newly registered young people and African Americans. But ... where will Hillary's Reagan Democrats go? Maverick John McCain's hoping they'll hop on with him.
Jack would like to hear from you on the 2008 Election. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.