Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Unity Ticket: Obama and Hillary

The Unity Ticket: Obama and Hillary
By Jerome Grossman

Traveling serenely down Pennsylvania Avenue on his way to the White House, Barack Obama had an accident that he should have anticipated. If anybody knew of Jeremiah Wright's opinions and meanness and self-centeredness, it was Obama, whose twenty year association with the pastor included close family relationships as well as significant political cooperation. However, Obama tried to repudiate Wright when he excluded him from the presidential campaign but Jeremiah refused to be excluded. He had messages, many hateful messages, to be delivered to the world and nothing was going to stop him from using this rare opportunity.

Obama has been hurt and his campaign will suffer in the nomination struggle and in the general election in November. How important was Wright in the beginning of Obama's political career? Why did the association last for 20 years? Why did it take so long for Obama to renounce his pastor and denounce his opinions?

Obama remains the likely nominee of the Democratic Party, damaged but viable. Perhaps it was better for the Wright explosion to have happened in April than in October. Better to give Hillary a leg up now than to give McCain an advantage just before the election. There is no doubt that the controversy would have exploded whether or not Hillary was in the race. Wright could not have been contained and is still on the prowl. Hopefully, the story will be old news by Election Day.

Now, Barack and Hillary need each other to put a Democrat in the White House. Party unity is in serious danger. On both sides strong feelings and even hatreds are erupting in public and in private. Not about issues: both are hopelessly centrist, offering virtually identical programs on domestic and foreign policy. The angry partisans are excited by the contrasting personalities, the differences in style and the intensity of the horserace. But underlying these conflicts are the strong feelings about race and gender, as the first African-American and the first Woman battle to break the ultimate ceiling.

The Republicans, handicapped by Bush’s unpopularity, presiding over recession, over failure in Iraq and chained to a reputation for incompetence, can win only if the Democrats become disunited and fratricidal. GOP political contributions have diminished, their Congressional retirements have risen, and their voting turnouts have declined.

A Democratic Unity Ticket with Obama as president and Hillary as vice president would satisfy party factions, lower the temperature, lead to a landslide victory in November. Obama would bring to the marriage the young, the black, and the liberal suburbanites. Hillary would attract her proven constituency of older voters, women, whites, workers and Hispanics. On to victory.

Would Obama accept Hillary? Would Hillary play second fiddle? Would they work together as did Cheney and Bush, Gore and Clinton? Or would she be frozen out any effective power the way President Kennedy isolated his vice president, Lyndon Johnson? Would Hillary be satisfied to be the lady-in-waiting for the presidency? Could Hillary learn to cooperate and surrender rivalry? Or would she prefer to build up her power in the Senate to raise her prospects for future presidential runs?

Let's get these questions answered. Then unite. The choice may be to win together or lose separately. On to victory.


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