The Transformation of the Democratic Party

It is quite remarkable. A couple of months ago Senator Hillary Clinton was polling far ahead of her rivals (it was only eight weeks ago there were six of them) in states like Ohio and Texas. Not that it mattered much. Those states would vote on March 4th and she was destined to have the nomination wrapped up by February 5th — Super Tuesday. Only it didn’t turn out that way. Now she’s running neck-and-neck in those states’ primaries. She could lose them both and if she does, she loses the nomination. Then again, she could win them both, too.

Recent polls in both states show the outcome is a statistical tie. Momentum is on the side of Senator Obama, but time is growing short. He may or may not be able to pull away from Senator Clinton by Tuesday. There’s reason to believe her support is firming. Women seem to be coming back. And losses in other Clinton strongholds, for example, the Hispanic community, seems to have staunched. Senator Clinton taking both Texas and Ohio is a very real possibility.

If the United States could capture the energy flowing from the spin that would follow such an event we could finally break the grip of foreign oil. The Clinton campaign proclaim the results as a repudiation of the empty promises and insubstantial rhetoric of Senator Obama. Meanwhile, Senator Obama’s campaign would focus on his continuing lead among delegates. The airwaves would be full of talking heads doing what they do best — talking. And regardless of the message, for most purposes, the campaign will have passed over in the Twilight Zone of surreal politics.

Consider: the former First Lady, the obvious and inevitable Democratic nominee is reduced to hoping for victory in two states she had wrapped up weeks ago. That’s a sorry state of affairs for the candidate who was supposed to have wrapped things up a month ago. Yet if she wins in Texas and Ohio — heck, if she wins in Texas or Ohio — it won’t be the fulfillment of long held expectations, it’ll be a comeback of historical proportions.

Meanwhile, the media will be in heaven. They love the roller coaster ride the Democratic presidential race has become. The press won’t focus on the repudiation of Senator Clinton’s inevitability that has been on public display for two months. The 24-hour news channels will crown her the Comeback Queen and fill up the time between their commercials with tales of her tremendous political dexterity (along with endless talk of the importance of North Carolina and Pennsylvania).  They’ll chortle over Senator Obama’s failure to “close the deal.” They’ll debate whether its the end of his boomlet or just a momentary delay in his nomination. Never mind that his rise to front runner status defied expectations, demonstrates remarkable political skill and management, and signals a reinvigoration of the Democratic party. The talk will be about whatever the press decides was the moment Senator Obama “let it slip away.” 

What will be missed in all this is the change the Democratic party is undergoing. The Clintons have dominated the party for over 16 years. And a substantial portion of the party is saying that’s long enough. That Senator Obama will enter the Democratic convention in Denver this August with a majority of the delegates selected in primaries and caucuses is a remarkable feat and a transformational event. Whether the transformation occurs this Tuesday or sometime later, it’s inevitable.

But change takes time. And that means Senator Clinton may still win one or more of the state’s she should never have been at risk of losing.

Posted in Elections, Presidential Campaign. Tags: , , , , , . Comments Off on The Transformation of the Democratic Party
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