“Hillary can’t win, and Obama can’t beat her.”
This seems to be the bottom line in the endless slog toward choosing the Democrat who will run against McCain this fall.
Obama’s platform is “change,” so it’s ironic that nothing changed in the six weeks between Super Tuesday and the Pennsylvania primary.
The American people are certainly craving change, starving for it, so why can’t Obama close the deal? Is he offering the wrong kind of change? Too much change? Too little? Too unspecific?
I admit I’ve sort of stopped paying attention to the Democratic race because frankly the media coverage is painful (all bowling scores, flag pins and other sensationalist trivia), and the candidates themselves seem intent on wallowing in the muck. But when I was more actively following the campaigns of Obama and Clinton, my impression was consistent with the early primary results: Obama was incandescent, dynamic, something new. Clinton was pedestrian, wonky (not to mention cool, ruthless, shrewish).
Obama’s “change” has a lot to do with rejecting the politics of polarization. Obama’s message is about hope and unity (“yes WE can”). When the American people first heard his words, they resonated, and he performed well in the early races. The idea of unity (“not red states and blue states… but the UNITED States”) is powerful, and it’s what Americans want.
But it’s not enough, and that’s what Hillary recognized. That’s why she has been so effective in the last couple of months.
The last eight years have certainly been polarizing, but they have also been characterized by incompetence, arrogance, secrecy and dishonesty. Obama has got the honesty issue in the bag, and he’s effectively positioned himself as the candidate who can unify the country. But Hillary has done a much better job on the issue of competence. On openness and humility it’s probably a toss-up.
Americans want all of this, and so the two candidates – together – sum up the change Americans are craving. That’s the real reason the voters are split almost down the middle. For Hillary to have any hope of securing the nomination (and the presidency), she needs to convince America that she is honest, open and can be a unifying force (not gonna happen). For Obama to win, he needs to convince America that he is no less competent than Clinton.