Like a lot of Democrats, I've gone from smug about our party's chances to nervous about the possibility of it tearing itself apart before Election Day. The debate between Clinton and Obama isn't much of a cause for worry: aside from some differences about health care and questions about who got on the anti-war bus first, they are pretty much in agreement on the issues. What difference exists lies in the degree of specificity that the candidates bring to their visions. Clinton is a policy wonk, Obama is a charismatic.
Unfortunately, the debate has been hijacked by folks on the sidelines. We did have a few blissful months when the pundits were punditing that America had finally made it: we were now (mostly) over our racial peculiarities and willing to see each other as people. Some folks had even raised the question of why, in a post-racial America, a man who is half-white and half-black should be called black. There's certainly some history behind that way of categorizing people, but there's also a growing feeling that it just ain't right.
In fact, if we had primary elections based entirely on ideas, the whole issue of race wouldn't be raised at all. But there are observers-both white and black- who have something to gain from the preservation of the distinction between the races.
And so it's impossible for Clinton to criticize Obama about his lack of specifics without African-American politicians characterizing the criticism as racial. Obama, on his part, doesn't have to criticize Clinton; there are people doing it for him. (It would be nice if older and wiser heads in the Black community could advise some restraint, but that advice doesn't seem either forthcoming or likely to be heard.)
So, instead of debate this year, we Democrats are likely to be treated to a sullen anger-fest. Either white or black voters get to feel bullied and somebody stays home on Election Day. President McCain, anyone?
I've been feeling pretty bad about this-feeling that entrenched interests fighting over their piece of the lifeboat were going to drown us all. Then this morning, I got an email from a fellow named Stan Spitzer. Stan is about a million and half years old and he builds sailboats for a living. His sailboats have proved to be about as durable as he is so even though he doesn't make many of them, you see them around a lot.
Stan's thinking on boats has been revolutionary for so long that radical thinking is almost a habit with him. He has a suggestion for Hillary. He thinks that she should take to the high ground. Stan thinks she should open the next debate with:
"...in the interest of what is best for the
Democratic Party and, what I feel is in the best interest of the United
States of America, that if by any chance I should be your nominee, I will
ask Barack Obama to be my vice president AND, if Barack wins the nomination, and asks me, I will proudly be his vice presidential running mate.
I think this debate should now be considered a press conference and we
should take your questions. I am going to let Barack do most of the
responding since he says it so much better than I do."
Aside from coming out looking like an unselfish patriot, a move like this could secure both Obama's future and her own. With the sniping stilled, the Democrats win in a walk-look for at least 60% of the popular vote. Eight years of good governance on the part of either one of them could virtually deliver the nomination and the election to the other.
One of the things I like about Stan's saliboats -(hey're called Rhodes22's) is that a person feels secure in them. They get you where you want to go. Wouldn't you love to that feeling about the election?
Lynn Hoffman, author of bang BANG, a novel about another woman who does something audacious and wins and The New Short Course in Wine