Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Life continues imitating the West Wing

I haven’t been following the presidential primaries in the U.S. that closely, other than what I get on The Daily Show. I did flip CNN on last night while doing other things, and listened to most of a tedious concession speech from Mike Huckabee (sorry Stephen Colbert) and a bland acceptance speech from John McCain.

It being a school night I went to sleep before there were any final results from Ohio or Texas, but this morning it seems Hillary Clinton was able to pull out wins in each. It’s too bad, I’ve been pulling for Obama. And he’s still very much in it, given the delegate numbers it’s still anyone’s game.

It’s already been observed how in many ways this primary season is imitating the script for the last two season of The West Wing. And that trend shows no sign of ending any time soon. With McCain/Vinnick nominated, the Republicans get to sit back with the Democrats with Obama/Clinton/Santos/Russell slug it out towards a brokered convention.

In the West Wing, the convention deadlocks and Santos is heavily pressured to bow out for the good of the party as the young guy that has made a name for himself, the heir apparent for next time. He appears to initially agree, then reneges on the convention stage with a speech for delegates to vote their conciencse. Behind the scenes, President Bartlet brokers the support of the NY teacher’s union for Santos and the nomination is his.

While such a scenario made for good TV, in real life it’s far from ideal for the Democratic Party. They need to get a presumptive nominee soon, and it shouldn’t be allowed to come down to a brokered convention.

At this point, as I understand it there’s no math that allows either Clinton or Obama to get over the hump before the convention. That brings the un-democratic super delegates into play, as well as divisive arguments over what to do about the un-seated Florida and Michigan delegations. That, and a prolonged primary season, will weaken and divide the Democratic Party, opening the door for what seemed impossible just a year ago: another Republican presidency.

After last night, I think the pressure is going to be incredibly strong for one of the two candidates to drop out of the race and endorse the other, for the good of the party and the good of the country. It really would be the best case scenario for what should be the ultimate goal: reclaiming the White House.

The question, of course, is who. It seems like an impossible choice to make for either candidate, both are so close to the prize they can taste it. Will one of them be able to put country ahead of ambition?

For Clinton, it’s probably a harder decision to make, because for her there probably is no next time. Could she run again in four years, or eight years if Obama wins the presidency? Tough to say, four years maybe but probably not eight. Stepping aside now may mean stepping aside from the dream.

For Obama, even if it ends here it’s not over. He has vaulted onto the national stage like a bullet, energized the party and the country. He’s young, and he’d be the presumptive nominee in four years, or eight if Clinton wins the presidency. And an Obama with a few more years of seasoning would be an even more formidable opponent, and could find it easier to blunt the national security attacks.

Both also stand to lose from staying in too long. Besides weakening and dividing the party and making it easier for McCain, this race is getting nastier and nastier. The loser stands to play a senior role in the party, Clinton has been mentioned as a possible Senate Majority Leader. Those possibilities go out the window if they’ve poisoned the ground behind them.

Looking at it pragmatically, Obama stepping aside for Clinton, and joining her on the ticket as VP, makes the best sense. Party united, experience mixed with idealism, and Obama gains the executive experience as VP to be a very formidable candidate down the road. As an Obama I’d be disappointed, because I think he can take this thing, but at what price? Really though he has the lead, he has the momentum, he shouldn't have to be the one to step aside.

There’s also a lot to be said for an Obama/Clinton ticket, with Hillary as the Leo McGarry to Barrack’s Matthew Santos. The experience balancing out the youthful idealism. And as a plus, Hillary has no history of heart problems I’m aware of.

So, will one of them step aside for the good of the party and country? In the West Wing Santos said no, and he went on to take the nomination and the presidency. Despite the parallels though while Obama may be very Santos-like, Clinton is no Bingo-Bob Russell and there’s no President Bartlett in the background to play powerbroker.

While I think the pressure will be on both of them to step aside, I just don’t see it happening. They’re both too close to winning. Also, you don’t get to be a successful politician without having a healthy ego, so I don’t think either are lacking in that department.

This one will go to the convention. It will be entertaining. In another pop culture parallel though, there will be blood.

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Mark Dowling said...

The wardrums for a revote are beating.

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