Yes, the Democrats’ tussle is a GOP opportunity

As of this writing, Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton seem locked in a titanic battle for the Democratic nomination. This is giving the Republicans an unexpected opportunity.

The battle between the putative first black and first woman presidential candidates is surely high drama. Clinton’s experience versus the freshness and promise of Obama: that has been the theme so far. Neithercandidate criticizes the other too deeply, lest they be accused of racism or sexism respectively. Republicans will have no such compunctions.

The Republicans have been written off. A deeply unpopular war and president, a recession-bound economy—the perfect case for anti-incumbency. But presumptive Republican candidate Senator John McCain can now use a most potent weapon: the question, “Who do you want as Commander-in-Chief?” I anticipate GOP ads asking bluntly: Do you trust Obama, who has never made a difficult decision in his life? Can you trust an emotional woman like Clinton—remember her tears after an early reprieve in the campaign?

Alas, the American electorate is both sexist and racist to some extent; in contrast, decorated war veteran, and white male, McCain starts looking good. If McCain comes up with a good VP candidate who will help him overcome two of his handicaps—his age and the allegation that he has been less than fully candid about campaign financing—he might pull off an unlikely victory come November. And his best VP candidate is not Bobby Jindal, trust me.

The longer the internecine battle between the Democrats goes on, bringing out all the skeletons in the closet for both of them, the easier McCain’s job will get.

There is another issue implicit in the way the Obama campaign has taken off. There seems to be a hunger, at least among the young and the left leaning, to go for a fresh face, a new beginning. So far so good. But there also seems to be a naïve yearning for a Messiah, someone who will wave a magic wand and make everything okay. The Obama campaign has exploited this need superbly. But Obama is not going to be able to make all the hurt go away. He will have to compromise; there is very little he can change in the status quo.

Despite all the rhetorical flourishes, Obama isn’t going to exit Iraq overnight, or solve the subprime crisis, or raise American competitiveness, or even put in a good health care plan. We are fresh out of Messiahs. That reality is going to sink in, and along with it, perhaps sink the Democrats, too. Indian-Americans must consider this possibility: the older ones are hedging, and the young ones, carried away by Obamania, should also beware, lest Messiah become Pied Piper.

Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from Chennai.


No, the country is hungry for Democratic change

Can elections actually rejuvenate democracy as opposed to being mere signs and symptoms of the latter?

The Democratic party’s nomination process has morphed into a phenomenon and catalyst for change even before the start of the real campaign. During a month in which the Oscars normally reign unsurpassed in terms of attracting TV audiences, the excitement over a debate between the country’s first potential female president and the first visible minority candidate says a lot about the yearning for change in the U.S., normally resigned to a national dialogue between the likes of Beavis and Butthead.

The Democratic nomination process has brought to the fore real questions about the visible but unnamed elephant in the living room—the Iraq war. An idealistic Obama has concluded the obvious: it is time for the U.S. to pull out of Iraq. Irrespective of who wins the nomination, this perspective will carry over to the national election, resulting in soul and value searching; the ensuing debate will contrast starkly with the last Presidential contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry. The 2004 campaign was bizarre since both contenders agreed on the end (the war delivering “democracy” to Iraq) but merely disagreed with the means, Kerry advocating a smart and sophisticated approach while Bush trumpeted the time-tested “brawn over brain” approach to reinforcing democracy. The entire debate degenerated into a dialogue between two versions of George W. Bush, differing only in IQ!

Obama has been labeled naïve for wanting to “soften” the U.S.’s image internationally. Who can argue against the merits of a more fraternal version of the U.S. instead of its present paternalism? America’s ability to police the world is no greater than that of the Police Department of an average U.S. metropolis addressing crime downtown: many believe that crime prevention is eclipsed by other, more selfish objectives. Obama needs to be congratulated for stating the obvious: Big Brother needs to mind his own business, as he hurtles toward bankruptcy amidst increasingly bleak circumstances including the mortgage crisis and NAFTA off-shoring jobs.

We have Obama and Clinton to thank for making youth and minority votes crucial, an unprecedented contrast to the tradition of the aforementioned groups being seen at electoral rallies but not heard from on Election Day.

Thus, one should not be cynical about the potential for change irrespective of who the Democratic candidate will be: they will continue to invigorate the electoral process like the first blooming flower ushering in spring on a cold and bleak day. Making the better among them win is truly in the best interests of the country and world. The newly awakened Democrats—see the huge turnouts in their primaries—are sure to keep the Republicans out of the White House in 2008.

Toronto based S. Gopikrishna writes on issues of pertinence to India and Indians.

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