Colorado has its caucus next Tuesday, so I've been thinking a lot about the choices on the Democratic menu. Baring some major event, it is going to come down to a choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Which candidate to choose, is a common topic of considerable discussion.
The truth of the matter is that Clinton and Obama aren't substantially different. They are both products of the mainstream Democratic machine. Both would get us out of Iraq, only the time tables differ - Obama wants to get out fast, while Clinton would linger. Both will try to do something about health care - Hillary wants to shoot for universal coverage, while Obama is willing to settle for something less. Both will pander to the public concerning the economy and immigration.
More to the point, presidents don't just dictate policy, at least not until the current administration came to power. They rely on advisors and cabinet members to set policy, and require the cooperation of congress to get anything enacted.
So do Clinton and Obama differ on these criteria? Chances are that both would have pretty much the same sort of people working for them. Where they may differ is in people skills. Arguably, Obama might be more successful bridging the political divide to get his policies through congress than the divisive Clinton.
So what is left? Only the intangibles of character and charisma. At first Obama reminded me of John Kerry - a patrician hyper-intellectual who can't give a straight concise answer to a simple question. As the campaign progressed, he out grew the similarities to Kerry. Clinton reminds me of Lyndon Baines Johnson. And I've always had a soft spot for LBJ. He was a complicated yet deeply flawed man, who did a wonderful thing. He brought to life the JFK's dream of civil rights in this country. In fact its hard to imagine who else could have gotten the Jim Crow south to drag itself into the the 20th century.
That said, I'm not supporting Hillary Clinton! She and Bill have run a nasty, condescending (bordering on racist), brutish campaign. They seem to think the office of the presidency is entitled to them. And lastly, they regularly take advantage of Hillary's gender - vote for Hillary or you're a sexist pig - when it benefits them.
A prime example of this came as a result of yesterday's endorsement of Obama by Ted Kennedy. The announcement has created a firestorm of criticism from Hillary supporters. The New York chapter of NOW made the announcement that ...
Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal. Senator Kennedy's endorsement of Hillary Clinton's opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard...
And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He's picked the new guy over us. He's joined the list of progressive white men who can't or won't handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not "this" one)...
Yes, while you can argue that Hillary isn't responsible for this tantrum, she does encourage this sort of behavior from her supporters. She always has plausible deniability. She critically implies that black Obama supporters only vote for him because he is black, but in the same breath argues that women should vote for her because she is a women. She loves the language of victimization, stereotyping, gender bashing, and racial divisiveness.
Beyond that, Hillary has a consistently poor voting record. She voted for Bush's authorization for the war. She voted for the bankruptcy bill and for the restriction of civil liberties. She's refused to apologize for any of these votes, and commonly makes excuses for her record. Both Hillary and Bill are directly responsible to the deadlock in the senate by supporting Joe Lieberman's independent bid for his senate seat. Obama's voting record is less clear, since he typically didn't show up for senate votes if he wasn't needed.
I'm tired of her. I'm tired of her supporters. I'm tried of being insulted, abused, and condescended to. Obama seems to be a decent guy. I'm voting for character. I'm voting for Obama. Because in the end this is the real difference between the two.