Senator Hillary Clinton, on the brink of elimination from the Democratic presidential race, revived her campaign this week with a crucial primary win in Pennsylvania. Despite his popular vote loss in Pennsylvania, Obama picked up at least 69 delegates to Clinton’s 81, allowing him to hold on to a more than 100-delegate lead in the all-important delegate count.
Senator Clinton is understandably buoyed by her big primary victory in Pennsylvania. She’s insisting on continuing the fight, and that it’s still too early for her party to anoint Barack Obama. But she’s wrong. There’s simply no way Hillary can catch up in the remaining eight primaries and caucuses. Even if she were to win every one of these contests by 10 points, she would gain just 60 delegates. She’s pressing on with her argument that Obama isn’t electable because he didn’t take many of the big states — Ohio, Texas, New York, New Jersey, California, and Pennsylvania—that Democrats need to win to beat Republican John McCain. But Clinton’s supporters in these states — older voters, women, blue-collar whites, Hispanics, and Catholics—would be McCain swing voters in a race against Clinton. Barack’s coalition is drawn mainly from the Democrats’ reliable base and he’s also very popular in Republican states such as Idaho, Utah, Georgia, and South Carolina.
National polls have consistently shown Obama beating McCain easily, while Hillary runs even or loses to him. Nonetheless, Hillary and her supporters have convinced themselves that she’s the best-qualified candidate. For the terrible injustice of Obama’s lead, they blame the media, the caucus system and sexism. Indeed, without sexism, where would Hillary Clinton be? In this universe, being First Lady is a ceremonial post, and it’s no more a qualification for being President than a spokes-model posing for smiling photos in front of a new car is somehow qualified for a career in mechanical design. Beyond her bedtime whispers in a President’s ear, her accomplishments as First Lady amount to nothing. Hundreds of times, she held over-sized scissors and cut through bright ribbon. Big deal.
Early in her husband’s administration, she did briefly step out of the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremonial role of First Lady, and immersed herself in political battle. Her husband gave her free rein, where she created a commission and held private meetings, not public hearings. The message from Hillary was, “I know what’s good for you, and when we’re ready, we’ll tell you what we’re going to do (and you’ll pay for it).” The ensuing uproar ended her grandiose plans. She deserves credit for this, because it was her only pre-Senate political experience. And how did that turn out? She destroyed the possibility for any meaningful health care reform in America.
During her six year tenure on the board of directors of Wal-Mart, she never lifted a finger to help the overworked, underpaid employees to start-up a union. Yet Hillary claims today that she’s all for unions. For six years, Hillary never did a thing to stop Wal-Mart’s import of goods from child labor factories in China.
Further, she has a history of doing/saying the “politically correct” thing to benefit her personal image, which changes depending on the day. Her recent pandering to gun owners and the shot-and-a-beer crowd and her about-faces regarding NAFTA and the war in Iraq reminded me of H.L. Mencken’s deathless observation: “If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.”
There is nothing, absolutely nothing in her life to suggest that she is of anything remotely approaching presidential stature. And for those who complain that Hillary Clinton has been treated without the respect due her, I just wonder what warp in the time-space continuum they’re writing from, where up is down and matter is anti-matter and sideways is butterscotch and Hillary Clinton is qualified to be President of the United States.
Moreover, her political career which began in the Senate in 2000, shows her to be amongst the most mundane, moderate, middle-of-the-road Democrats. Hillary has been wrong and essentially Republican on key issues like the war, torture, the god-awful bankruptcy bill of 2001, the patriot Act, the Kyle-Lieberman bill, etc. Similarly, her campaign rhetoric, especially when attacking Obama, has been as Republican as any Republican’s. Republicans are much happier this week than they were last week. It’s not just that they would prefer to run against the much-hated Hillary, but also that the Clinton tactic of building herself up by knocking Obama down makes him more vulnerable, too. If the Clintonistas maintain this course, they could be responsible for two defeats: Clinton’s for the nomination and Obama’s for the presidency.
This presidential primary season has produced a clear vision that our country is yearning for change. A generation of Americans has sat by and watched our country descend from the pedestal that took our ancestors two centuries and more to build. If we allow ourselves to be distracted from the real issues that face our nation by the dishonest, we will deserve the government we elect.
The Democratic race now comes down to one question: Will we continue to be cursed with politicians and leaders who care only for the privileged/establishment or will we vote for the candidate who can bring about real change?
President Lincoln was the first to use the phrase, “Last, best hope,” when describing his plan to rescue America from the divisions caused by the Civil War. The phrase was echoed again to describe the Kennedy administration.
In these times when our country is faced with the greatest challenges since World War II, we need a leader who understands that the differences between Americans are far smaller than the similarities that unite us. Sen. Barack Obama is that kind of leader. He just may be our last best hope for this generation. Yes, he’s a once-in-a-century man!
Dr. Bittar is professor of interdisciplinary studies at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio.