Wednesday, April 23, 2008
As the sun sets on the Pennsylvania primary, can Obama and Clinton rise above their caricatures?
Far away from the sights and sounds of this never-ending campaign, there's a serenity to the natural world these days, as spring unfolds across the country and the geese fly north to their summer homes. They can get away from it all. We can't.
With Clinton's win in Pennsylvania by a big enough margin to keep going but not nearly enough to win, this awful Forever Campaign seems bound to keep going until the final round of June primaries nearly six weeks from now (Puerto Rico, Montana and Douth Dakota, totaling 110 delgates) -- and probably beyond. And each day the Democratic candidates become smaller and smaller.
The Democratic race has come up against the oldest law of media: If you repeat anything in the media long enough, it will become a parody of itself, unable to elicit anything but weary laughter. The Seinfeld show became such a parody of itself that the late-night reruns were painful to watch. Repeat yourself often enough, and you wear out your welcome. Now it's happening to Clinton and Obama.
The candidates are being transformed into caricatures of themselves, their policy positions lost in the shuffle of gotchas and spin: Obama, the well-spoken elitist who talks a good game but can't close the sale or get anything done. Clinton, the disingenuous opportunist who will do anything to win and refuses to concede that she's lost. Two bright, thoughtful candidates are being eclipsed by cartoon versions of themselves.
It's tragic. Two of the best candidates the Democrats have had in years, each candidacy a historic first, are diminishing each other, day by day, and in the process, the charisma is draining out of each of these talented politicians.
A few months ago, it was a foregone conclusion that a Democrat would be elected president in November. Now it's less certain. The longer they keep running narrow, tactical primary election campaigns that are geared to driving up each other's negatives, the more they look like political hacks, just out for themselves. It's a recipe for disaster.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both so much better than this. Each has the power to inspire, to evoke a vision of a better America and how to get there -- to rise above today's petty bickering for political advantage and to speak directly to the American people. If they do, one of them is lkely to become the next president. If not, it probably goes to McCain by default.