Clinton vs. Obama

Will sore losers spoil the Democratic hope for change?
By MARY ANN SORRENTINO  |  February 13, 2008
As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue in a fight-to-the-finish, the debate over the value of the Electoral College system again gathers steam.
 
Currently, Democratic delegates are won based on voter percentages, not ballots cast. More distressing, “superdelegates” are free to vote as they please.
 
Democrats are about to select either the first woman or the first black presidential nominee. Followers of both candidates are deeply committed. Women who remember a lifetime of sexism in lost opportunities and exclusion tend to support Clinton. The same is true of the mainstream mainly white Democratic establishment, and of the Latinos who love the Clintons and sometimes feel overshadowed by blacks.
 
Obama, conversely, has tremendous support among African-Americans, archliberals, and young voters, all of whom work tirelessly for his cause. Such a passionate following sparks more energy than Clinton’s traditional gang, and it may make the difference for him.
 
Obama — always mesmerizing — often uses what some might see as the language of entitlement. With every step closer to possible victory, he invokes a vague “we” whose “time has come.” On Super Tuesday, he finally said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
 
“We,” who?
 
The long-avoided race card is now subtly played by both sides. This is in line with how ethnic minorities have in the past lined up behind “one of their own.” Though few are willing to articulate this, blacks for Obama are no different than Irish for Kennedy or Italians for Cuomo.
 
When Obama speaks of so many small contributions, such as the $3 money order mailed in by a Southern elder, he is talking — at least in part — about a black person voting for another black person.
 
In the end, voters will have “chosen” a bunch of political regulars who, between visits to “hospitality suites,” may still select the nominee. While this process initially favored Clinton, who clearly has more political chits to call in, it’s noteworthy when someone such as Provi¬dence native Tad Devine, a leading Democratic consultant in DC, uses a New York Times op-ed — as he did last Sunday — to encourage superdelegates to delay their decision-making.
 
Polls by CNN and the Washington Post show that if Obama is the nominee, Clinton supporters will be willing, and even happy, to rally behind this capable, charismatic candidate touting “change we can believe in.” The same polls say Obama supporters will get behind the brilliant, hard-working Senator Clinton if she is chosen.
 
Yet while it might seem unlikely at the moment, one wonders, how will black America react if Obama is “passed over,” and if Clinton gets the nod via a politically tainted and obtuse system?
 
Oprah, Jesse Jackson, and black scholars may be angry and vocal, but they will eventually surrender to the pecking order that has always defined political reality.
 
But will aggrieved individuals, including some of those who cheered O.J. Simpson’s acquittal because, finally, they beat “the man,” be physical or philosophical?
 
In the end, the demeanor of the losers, regardless of who gets the Democratic nomination, will test one “change” that we would all like to believe in.
  Topics: This Just In , Barack Obama, Elections and Voting, Politics,  More more >
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