It's how politics works. And we are seeing a shifting of gears and the rise of a new leader for the Democratic party.
The past few days may have been worrying for Obama supporters. On Saturday, Harold Ickies threatened to take Hillary Clinton's case to the DNC Credentials Committee at the end of this month, to appeal the 'hijacking' of four of her delegate votes. On Sunday, both Ickies and Clinton campaign chair Terry McAuliffe, hinted that Senator Clinton would not be congratulating Senator Obama on Tuesday night. This morning, Senator Clinton said that the nomination race is not over until it is over, and that "her political obituary is yet to be written."
Well, she is correct about that last point. See, her political obituary would be written if she didn't get behind Barack Obama in the general election. And that's not even an issue. It's not because Obama will extort her support. It's not because the rabid Obama supporters will scream and yell. It's because Clinton will follow the standard political playbook for the Democratic party. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's take a brief look at the nightmare scenario that we've heard from Obama supporters.
Senator Clinton has long argued that Senator Obama is not as electable as she is. That could be interpreted to mean that if the Democrats nominated Obama, he would have a greater chance of being upset by John McCain than Hillary would. Taken further, it could mean that if Obama were nominated, then Hillary would be in a position to say, "I told you so," if Obama lost in November. And taken even further, it could mean what many ordinary Democratic voters have recently speculated - that Senator Clinton wants Obama to lose in November, so she can stage a run in 2012. This topic was debated back in March by several bloggers and pundits.
The argument goes like this. Hillary reluctantly endorses Obama and campaigns for him, but she secretly (or not so secretly) hopes he loses to John McCain. Then Hillary can stage a successful 2012 campaign for a nation weary of 12 years of Republican rule, high gas prices, and the occupation of Iraq in its 10th year.
There is a huge problem with this argument. It assumes many things that have little or no chance of happening:
1. It assumes that Democrats will be just as receptive to a Hillary campaign in 2012 as they were in 2008.
2. It assumes that there will be no other up-and-coming Democrat who would want to defeat John McCain, should McCain win this November. After all, Obama wasn't on the radar in early 2006. Ariana Huffington foresaw a Gore vs. Clinton 2008 nomination race, and wrote about it in October 2005 and January 2006. Barack who?
3. And most important, it assumes that there would be no blame assigned to Clinton in the event of an Obama loss.
That sinks the argument. Think about what Clinton has said since her 11-state losing streak (which essentially killed her campaign). She said that McCain was qualified to be president, and in the same breath refused to give Obama the same pat on the fanny. She floated the talking point that Obama was doomed to lose, like Gore and Kerry, because he is an elitist. She made sure to use the word "hard working" before the word "white" in describing the demographic in which she defeated Obama in the Appalachian states. Never mind that the core of the Democratic base nationwide consists of liberals and African Americans. She suggested that Obama give-up and become her running mate as VP after he had won 11 contests in a row. And let su not forget the unforgivable assassination remarks. Hillary and her campaign managers have said too many negative things about Obama to be spared any blame if he loses in November. That's not a threat from this or any Obama supporter. That's not a threat from Mr. Obama. That's just the way politics works in the Democratic party.
Bill Clinton has been the de-facto leader of the Democratic party since winning the nomination in 1992. He filled a power vacuum that was left when Gary Hart dropped out of the 1988 nomination race. He remained the leader of the party through 2008. And it seems that tomorrow, June 3rd, Bill Clinton will lose that title. He seemed to understand that possibility today when he spoke in Milbank, South Dakota.
Naturally, the Clintons don't want to lose their leadership position in this great party. People in power do whatever they can to keep it while they are still playing within the rules. In this case, there are no term limits. The unwritten rule is that the next major Democrat to win the nomination and subsequently the presidency will become the leader of the party. Obama is poised to replace Clinton in that role. In fact you could argue that the party belongs to Obama beginning Tuesday.
Losing their leadership position is painful enough. But they would be throwing everything away if they set-up Obama to lose to John McCain, an old, uninspiring, ignorant man who by most accounts is too angry, too conservative, and too much like George W. Bush to beat a Democrat in November. Hillary Clinton would be putting her senate seat and political legacy at risk if she left Obama twisting in the wind.
And so, despite some threats, tough words, and pleas for more time, the transition from the Clintons to Obama is already in-play. The Clinton campaign has begun to tell its staffers to stand-down, as Senator Clinton is preparing a primetime speech in New York City to be delivered Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, Senator Obama is telling his supporters that he is looking forward to working with Hillary on the campaign trail. She might need a vacation and some private time. But she will campaign for Obama. The second place finisher in a nomination race doesn't have a choice. Obama and Clinton supporters who think that she has options need to settle down, and give it time. Give it time, and soon all of us will jump on the team and come on in for the big win.
Aw shit, I quoted Michael Herr again! I often do that.