Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Who Plays Second Fiddle?

Generally it seems like a real bad idea to make early predictions regarding American politics. The media environment is often way too arbitrary in its coverage, and has the ability to swing events in unanticipated ways. For instance, who knew that they would lend credibility to "Swift boats for Truth" in the 2004 presidential election? With Bush's poor performance and ratings during his first term, most sensible observers were calling for him to be soundly defeated in his re-election bid. Inexplicably he prevailed. It's my contention that Kerry was torpedoed by the media. They made him look completely ineffectual, even with his long record of service to our federal government. I realize that I offer speculation at my own peril.

About a year and a half ago I suggested (on this very blog) that Barack Obama had a good chance at becoming our first black president. Even on its surface it's a claim that ignores the obvious reality- Obama is as "white" as he is "black". But that's not part of the story this election cycle, and so the terms have been established regarding his racial identity. There were certainly times in the intervening months that I've second-guessed myself. It looked to me as if Obama's handlers were going to make him assume a 'vanilla' campaign strategy. He seemed for a bit to be a bit too conservative in his rhetoric. His usual 'spark' was missing. However it returned in full when the Jeremiah Wright flap hit the press.

Now the media seems more-than-ready to call the race for Obama. They are treating him as the presumptive nominee. It is reported that he has the lead in both pledged and superdelegates. Apparently his lead is insurmountable by Hilary Clinton. Her chances have been trumped by mathematical analysis. "She can't win." So now what? The big question (as far as I'm concerned) is, "Who will be Obama's running mate?" Naturally the obvious choice would be his 'newly-defeated' opponent. The media has been pushing the message that many Clinton voters have expressed their opposition to supporting Obama. I suspect that this isn't true. This assumption may be an unintended consequence of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos".

While it seemed like a forgone conclusion that, had Clinton prevailed, she would have certainly picked Obama for the second spot on the ticket- I'm not sure that the opposite will hold true. A lot of people have suggested that her ego will not allow her to seek anything less than the Presidency. Others have said that they doubt that Obama would want the former first couple looking over his shoulder. I don't think that either of these contentions are true. Hillary and Bill would obviously bring a wealth of useful experience to the prospective administration. I believe that Obama has a strong enough personality to counter any influence peddling. Likewise he has thought a lot about his positions and would not compromise himself based on external pressures.

Still all of this does not mean Obama should invite Clinton on board. Perhaps he will consider geography when he makes his decision. John Edwards has declared himself out, but Jim Webb from Virginia might do the trick. He's a moderate and a military veteran. Or maybe Obama decides he needs to shore up the Midwest, and chooses the youthful 'rising star' Evan Bayh, or Claire McCaskill from Missouri. Conventional wisdom suggests that he must pick someone who won't 'harm the ticket'. It's not the time to court controversy. I've been suspecting he may tag Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico. That would be a major advantage in courting the growing Latino vote, and balance the ticket with a perceived 'middle-of-the-road' bureaucrat with foreign relations experience.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Diane said...

Living in CA I certainly agree with your thoughts of Obama choosing a running mate who could bring home the Latino votes.

As for your thoughts on Clinton in second position, I'm inclined to agree with you that Hillary won't be contented with second place. It seems that most of the political pundits are looking for her to bow out of the race. There really isn't a good enough reason, in her mind, to give up now. I'm not a Clinton supporter, but I see no reason why she should not see this through the next spate of primaries. It certainly gives us an interesting race to observe.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

diane,

The Latinos are in a strange limbo here in the US. Politicians are walking a fine line between courting their increasingly-important support, while at the same time trying to distance themselves from the perception that they are welcoming the modern wave of immigration.

I'll give you two compelling reasons that Clinton should give up now- she is wasting money, and harming whatever is left of the Clinton legacy.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Ok, I'll give you wasting money, but isn't it really Bill Clinton's legacy first and foremost? If it isn't, it should be. That is not to say she didn't make any contributions, and everyone knows he did enough damage to his "profile" on his own. Disregard the personal relationship stuff, he still has his Presidential Legacy in addition to what he has done as a "Past" President. That's enough to stand alone and the current Presidential race belongs to the distaff Clinton, and shouldn't affect the legacy. That is, unless you believe that some future action of hers will be damaging.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Well... the media has never assessed the legacies of Hillary and Bill separately, and the public has bought into the concept of them as one entity.

She is continually eroding any good will that many Democrats had as a result of her husband's presidency, and he has done nothing to help with a continual stream of nasty comments and insinuations about Obama. A lot of people that wither viewed them positively or neutrally just want them both to go away.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Ah, yes, you are correct. I agree that the public does have that tendency to consider them as "Billary". I recall that during his Presidency a lot of various entertainment media referred to the Clintons that way. Apparently the public tends to remember the entertainment media reports over news media. I shouldn't be surprised I suppose; seems to be a lot of people receiving all their "news" on Entertainment Tonight.

I don't have an axe to grind against this news format, although the "entertainment" aspect often misses the mark on the way to sensationalism. Unfortunately, there are people whose only source of what we refer to as "news" comes from entertainment media. They vote(or not)too.

2:29 PM  

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