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The Democratic Race: The End is Nigh

by Pol Observer

April 21, 2008 | 11:49 pm

The Democratic race is just about over, and not just because of the calendar.  I don’t think this race is going to make it to the convention.

The last big state primary is tomorrow, in Pennsylvania.  In the unlikely event that Clinton loses to Obama, she may well withdraw.  Of course, that threat to withdraw is itself a tactic that has worked before in drawing her voters to the polls in Texas and Ohio.  If, as seems more likely, Clinton wins narrowly, the race moves on to a block of May primaries with even more delegates at stake.

The last primaries are in the first week of June.  And that is where the dynamic changes no matter what happens between now and then.  It is likely that the superdelegates, like the referee in a bloody boxing match, will step in and declare a “technical knockout” by swinging their votes to one candidate.  Howard Dean, DNC chairman, wants them to do it now, but I think they will not want to preempt the voters in the remaining states unless there is a dramatic shift in the results.

The other reason that, to me, the end is nigh, is a straw in the wind.  As defeat looms, a certain bitterness sets in where previously there had been high hopes.  So when Bill Clinton praised older voters for not being “fooled” by Obama’s rhetoric (and thereby suggested that younger voters had been fooled), I heard echoes of the former president Bush in 1992, bemoaning how he could possibly be losing to this pup Bill Clinton from Arkansas, and complaining about how MTV was a “teeny bobber” network.

The other straw is that I don’t find myself thinking how Hillary would match up against John McCain.  My brain is not accepting information on that question, because it does not compute as likely to occur.  I do find myself wondering a great deal about how the fall campaign between Obama and McCain will go, and my guess is that this is a typical assumption right now.  I find myself thinking about race and politics these days, and wondering how the experience of Tom Bradley’s defeat in 1969 and victory in 1973 for L.A. mayor bears on what might be a truly historic election in 2008.  It will really be something to see these racial issues, rich and agonizing in their complexity, play out on the greatest political stage in the world.  I’m particularly interested in how the Jewish community will see the campaign.

Some months ago, I would have been equally engaged in the historic question of America’s first woman president, a goal I fervently hope will be achieved soon.  I understand that many Clinton supporters feel that the chance of a woman being elected president depends on Hillary, now.  But I think this is incorrect.  There is a tremendous “bench” of women politicians ready to move up, especially on the Democratic side.  There is a tier of dynamic women governors and senators who are likely to make the jump much sooner than people think.  In fact, we might see women in the #2 spot on either ticket, which is a major boost toward the presidency.  On the Democratic side alone, there are Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Kathleen Sibelius of Kansas all of whom have won tough elections in red or purple states.

On the other hand, should Obama not win this time, I don’t foresee a rush of African American candidates from the wings.  Black candidates have had trouble winning statewide elections, the jumping off point for presidential candidates, and even more so in red and purple states.  Obama has jumped the pack.  Even if he loses, though, he might break the cycle of Democrats turning their backs on those who lose, and he might get a second shot if he does a great job helping state and local Democratic candidates.  No Democrat since Adlai Stevenson has had that opportunity.

So let’s see what happens tomorrow in the Keystone State.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Raphael J. Sonenshein (born 1949 in Nutley, New Jersey) was a political science professor at California State University, Fullerton. He is also served as chairman of the...

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