The waiting is almost over. The breathless anticipation, the sleepless nights. It comes every four years. The pomp, the circumstance, the political mechanizations. Times have changed the event. Now it’s more “green”. The host region is in flux, there is uncertainty about it’s political leanings. Also this year there is still the shadow of war hanging over the event though the war has changed since the participants last assembled. Finally this year, like years past, has a hint of surprise to it. The show remains the same though. Yes, it’s time for the Democratic National Convention.
The question to end all questions though is, what are the Clinton’s up to? As of right now they are scheduled to speak on the second (Hillary) and third (Bill) nights.
There is one school of thought that this may be a no-win situation for Obama. If he did not let them speak he would alienate a segment of the Democratic party that is already on the fence, or on the other side for some.
Bill Clinton is still popular among Democrats although he did do some damage to this popularity with his behavior during the primaries.
More importantly though, Hillary was a must for the convention. A lot of her supporters are still smarting over her loss and Obama’s role in it, some of it real, some imagined. There is a sizable portion of the Democratic party that believed this was Hillary’s nomination and the primaries were just a formality. There is still lingering resentment over her loss. These are people that Obama is on very thin ice with. There is still no guarantee that they will come back to the party this year. Most of those that do not come back will stay home.
Some though will cross over and vote for John McCain. This is even more of a risk this election because Obama is facing a candidate with broad appeal. Unhappy voters in 2004 were not as likely to cross over and vote for George Bush (although some did) because of his unpopularity with Democrats. This is not true this election. As I said, McCain has considerably more cross over appeal than Bush and this could make the decision to vote Republican easier for Democrats upset with Hillary’s defeat. What should concern the Democrats this year is that Bush, as unpopular as we was supposed to be with Democrats in 2004, managed to get 11% of them to vote for him. If I’m Obama, I would worry about this when he is facing a party that is divided over the Hillary loss and a Republican candidate that has cross over appeal.
So, letting the Clintons speak was essentially a no-brainer. Which brings us to the down side of allowing them the air time.
Pundits have said that one of the real risks for Obama is the possibility that they could block some of his spotlight. Conventions are not for nominating the candidate anymore. They are supposed to be a coronation. We have the first three nights in which we have leaders of the party speaking mixed in with the occasional speaker with some tale of woe that will be made right with the election of the candidate. The whole event is staged, speeches pre-approved, speakers chosen carefully to accomplish one thing, tell us how wonderful the candidate is and what horrors face us if they are not elected. The third night is capped off by the announcement of the Vice Presidential candidate. Finally the excitement builds until the fourth night in which the candidate themselves take the stage and there is great rejoicing, tears, and an overpowering sense of party unity.
At least that’s the plan.
The risk for Obama, some say, is that nights two and three could become about the Clintons. They are rock stars in the Democratic party in their own right. Neither has given resounding support for Obama yet. In fact one could say Bill Clinton hasn’t actually given his support at all yet. His latest chance was when a reporter asked him if he thought Obama was ready to be President. Instead of giving the gracious “of course he is” answer, Clinton responded that he wasn’t sure anyone ever really was. This is a curious answer. What it is not, however, is an endorsement.
There are also rumors that Clinton’s supporters may try to hijack the convention and force a floor vote, asking attendees to vote for either her or Obama. While it is likely Obama would win this vote, the thought is that the vote would be fairly close and would do considerable damage to their attempt to project party unity. In addition, her losing the vote along with not being placed on the ticket as a VP candidate, could cause her supporters to leave the convention with renewed bitterness.
My personal thought is that the Clintons will subtly undermine Obama. Hillary Clinton has no interest in Obama winning. There is nothing in it for her. The best she is looking at is a likely cabinet post. More importantly, an Obama win will essentially destroy her chances of winning the White House. Her next chance to win would be 2016, unless she ran against Obama for the nomination in 2012 which is unlikely. In 2016 she would be running against, a sitting Democratic VP if Obama wins in 2012, or an incumbent sitting Republican president if Obama loses in 2012. Neither scenario is traditionally the best way to get to the White House. Her only real chance at the White House is if Obama loses this year. She could then run against an even older McCain in 2012. A much better chance of winning.
For any Democrats reading this, do not be deluded into thinking the Clintons will put the interests of the party before them. They have given no indication of doing this since coming on the national scene in 1992. They are two of the most cold and calculating people in politics today and they have always done what is best for the Clintons.
With this said, they do have to be careful. Any indication that they are trying to undermine Obama would be just as disastrous for her White House chances. So as another witch would say “These things must be done delicately”. Sorry, cheap shot, but too easy to not do.
So, while I am not a Democrat and live in fear of Obama being president, I wait in anticipation of the Democratic National Convention. Forget that Olympics thing in China, this year the Democratic convention may be the Greatest Show on Earth.