Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hail to McCain

John McCain took one giant step toward being the next tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday. And that step had nothing to do with the four primary wins that guaranteed him the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. No, Senator McCain got much closer to the White House because Barack Obama did not finish off Hillary Clinton in the Democratic contests. This means that the fratricidal (I include sisters as well as brothers in “fratricide”) war between senators Clinton and Obama will continue for at least another month. It also means that the eventual loser of the Democratic nomination fight will spend at least another month working daily to help Senator McCain win the November election.

In its wisdom, and in the expressed desire to make the process more democratic, the Democracy has rejected the winner-take-all primary in favor of proportional representation. This means that although Senator Clinton has won the primaries in almost all the big states so far, she has only captured a few more delegates than Senator Obama in those states. (For example, in the large state primaries that she won yesterday, Senator Clinton only earned fourteen more delegates than Senator Obama in Ohio and four more than Obama in Texas). Senator Obama, on the other hand, has won most of the small states by margins large enough to earn him most of their delegates. The proportional representation system means that although Hillary beat Barack in three of the primaries yesterday she only won twenty delegates more than he did and still trails him by about one hundred pledged delegates. (Including the unpledged “Super Delegates” that have indicated their preference shrinks Barack’s lead to about fifty).

If you have paid attention to the Democratic race since Senator Obama won all three of the middle Atlantic primaries a few weeks ago you surely noticed that the campaign has turned very negative. The Democrats have no such thing as the “Reagan Rule” (thou shalt not attack another Republican), and so both sides have been firing broadsides asserting that the other is not fit to be president. The era of good feeling, in which Barack and Hillary each went out of their way to publicly praise the other, is over. This is no longer a campaign of “We’re both good, but I’m better.” Now, it’s “Vote for the other guy and Western Civilization will crumble.” And, since negative campaigning seems to have been effective in Senator Clinton reversing Senator Obama’s momentum in the race, you can be sure that she will continue to use it in the future. I’m sure Senator Obama will respond in kind. All these negative ads will undoubtedly aid Senator McCain’s campaign in the fall against whoever wins for the Democrats.

Those who have participated in the Democratic Party nominating process this year are almost equally divided between supporters of Hillary and supporters of Barack. And because of the historic nature of the contest (first woman against first African American) there are many people who are extremely committed to the candidate of their choice. There are those in the Clinton camp who will support nobody for president other than Hillary. Likewise, there are people in the Obama camp who will only support Barack. Further, the direction that the campaign has taken is going to make many people very bitter should their candidate lose. (This will be especially so if the loss results from the votes of Super Delegates). Many Hillary supporters will not work to get Obama elected and many Barack supporters will not work to get Clinton elected. This fact will make it difficult for the winner of the nomination to unite the party behind her/him for the race in the fall.

So, it is not unreasonable for Senator McCain to start humming “Hail to the Chief.” The Democrats are engaged in another one of their self-destruct rituals, which will most likely cripple the nominee for the fall race. Unless Senator McCain chooses a running mate who will scare away moderate voters, he will be taking the presidential oath next January.

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