Something is happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mrs. Clinton?
Actually, I think many of us know what is happening and it’s pretty amazing to watch it all unfold. I don’t think I can remember a presidential primary campaign like this one in my lifetime. Where the frontrunner’s thunder is stolen by a relative newcomer, who goes on to triumph despite all odds. I realize I’m ahead of myself since Obama hasn’t triumphed yet. But today’s news augurs well for Obama and poorly for Clinton.
But I digress. There are plenty of examples of political newcomers who stole a march on veteran pols during primary campaigns but who didn’t ultimately win. Robert Kennedy and Gene McCarthy are perfect examples from my youth. Everything about their campaigns were electrifying and politically contrarian in the best way possible. Jesse Jackson stole the thunder of the 1984 convention but never won anything. What Obama appears to be doing, however, seems unprecedented to me–at least again in my lifetime.
Last week, my state’s governor, Christine Gregoire, endorsed Barack Obama. It’s a pretty gutsy move since both of our U.S. senators have endorsed Hillary. And Gregoire, as a liberal female Democratic politician should be a natural Hillary supporter. But in another way it’s not gutsy at all–it’s simply common sense if you have your finger to the political winds. Gregoire has determined in a purely pragmatic fashion that Obama will likely win. She has a potentially tough re-election coming up and came within a few hundred votes of losing in her first race for governor. She’s determined that Obama will provide her the biggest political coat tails come November.
The national news notes that John Lewis, who previously endorsed Hillary has essentially switched sides. When someone of Lewis’ stature abandons ship you know something serious is going on in this campaign.
One thing is very important here. The Clintons don’t like to lose. You remember those attack dogs, James Carville and Clinton’s other take-no-prisoners crowd? Like them, Hillary could do everything possible to win–or at least take her opponent down in the process of losing. And I could half understand her impulse to do this when you’ve staked your all on such a campaign and been preparing for it virtually much of your adult life as she undoubtedly has. It’s got to be tough to watch all that slip through your fingers.
But we’ve got to remember that there is a general election to fight in November and John McCain is going to be a formidable opponent. If Democrats eviscerate each other in the primary there may be little left of the eventual prevailing candidate to present to the American people as wholesome, fresh and worth voting for. So let’s remember that whoever we support the other guy is OK too. We need Hillary’s supporters if we’re going to win in November. If they walk away in disgust, then an Obama primary victory will be a hollow one.
For that reason I was heartened to hear today’s To the Point show in which L.A. Times columnist Joel Stein was interviewed by Warren Olney. Stein supports Obama while his mother, also interviewed, supports Clinton. Matt Lippman, an Obama staffer, also participated on the panel. What struck me is that all of them spoke warm words about the various Democratic candidates they WEREN’T supporting. I like that. We need that. Let’s not forget that we need each other in order to win.