Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why can't the Democrats make up their mind?

Anatole Kaletsky has a sort of answer here: it's because enough Americans are too racist to support Obama, while others are torn between two excellent candidates. The Democrats hold two perfect aces:
The fact that Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton are both such impressive candidates, intelligent, sincere, articulate and in command of the issues, while John McCain does not qualify on any of these criteria only makes matters worse.
Indeed, a Republican victory against either candidate would be truly disastrous:
The possibility of a Republican victory in November would seem to overturn every principle of proper democracy.
Except, presumably, for the one that says that it is the votes of the people that count, and not the opinions of the media. I have a rather different take on the thing. Obama and Clinton are very evenly matched candidates, and what might have been expected to have been their biggest weaknesses, respectively their race and their gender, has turned out in each case to be one of their greatest strengths. It is certainly not racist to point out, as did Geraldine Ferraro, that if Barack Obama had been an unexceptional white politician, there is simply no way he would have got this far - his CV is just too short. Equally, without Clinton's unusual personal history, there is little to make her stand out from the crowd.
But each candidate is seriously flawed; this is not a decision between paragons. Clinton first, as her flaws are most obvious. She is unconvincingly human - her positions look to be calculated rather than felt - look at her agonising flip-flops over NAFTA. She is a poor speaker, although a reasonable debater, and lacks the sort of warmth that her husband had in spades. She has an, um, uncertain relationship with the truth. Finally, she carries an awful lot of baggage - more than anyone else, she would energise the opposition.
Obama's flaws are less well known, largely due to the extremely sympathetic press he has received until recently, but they are there. The largest is that, despite his rhetoric of a new politics and his youth, he is in many ways an old-fashioned liberal politician. His talk of the bitterness of rural voters was revealing, not of contempt for working-class Americans, but of a comfortably condescending mindset. It would, for example, have sounded very familiar from a New Labour minister. His talent for oratory can conceal the emptiness of many of his ideas - sonorous platitudes remain platitudes.
Both candidates have many strengths, obviously, but the election in November will not be between a giant and a pygmy.

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