10 Rounds, No Decision

Instead of Gathering Behind a Nominee, The Democratic Party Remains in Crisis

Any observer of US politics who thought last fall that the 2008 election was a shoo-in for the Democrats may not feel so confident now.  Out of the original eight, two candidates still remain active in the race – Senators Hillary Clinton (NY) and Barack Obama (IL).  That fact, however, is the only thing that’s clear in this extraordinary race for the White House.

On March 4th Hillary Clinton taught her rivals never to write off a Clinton too soon when she celebrated victories in three out of the four states voting that day (as it turned Obama actually ended up winning Texas once caucus results were tallied).  And so, instead of gathering behind one presidential nominee and starting to hack away at McCain’s sheen, Democrats are facing a full-fledged identity crisis.

While each of the two candidates has had moments to shine, neither frontrunner has been able to seal the deal – a deal which was wildly expected to be settled by the original Super-Duper Tuesday on Feb. 5.  Several hyped Super Primaries and Caucus’ later there is still no clarity.

Given each contender’s current delegate count, it’s looking increasingly as if Democrats will have to wait for the 2008 Democratic National Convention (August 25th -28th) and its Super Delegates to know who their nominee will be.

Party officials are praising this ongoing race as the mother of all “democratic” debates, pointing to the fact that both Democratic candidates remain omnipresent in the media’s eye.  Spin it as you may, the word “messy” comes to mind.  These are months that fill the Democratic Party with a good measure of uncertainty; crucial months in which the Republican frontrunner John McCain can hone his profile, rally his base, distinguish himself from the Democratic slugfest and go about fundraising almost undeterred by any attacks.

As they say in Austria: ”Wenn Zwei sich streiten freut sich der Dritte”.

I won’t make a secret out of the fact that I support Barack Obama.  Although Hillary Clinton is a definitive figure of modern American political life, I think Obama would be the better choice for the Democratic Party and the United States of America. With his message of hope, his skill and his youthful charisma, Barack Obama has been able to tap into voter demographics that have been notoriously difficult to reach: first time voters, blacks and independents.  He has created an energy and excitement in the political landscape that has not been seen for a long time.  Democratic voters are turning up in record numbers to vote or caucus for Obama, they come in droves to his political rallies and make record-breaking online.  With national voter turnout in federal elections often below 50% this trend bodes well for American democracy as a whole.

From an international perspective, all three front runners are a vast improvement in PR terms to the sitting president, and for Americans living abroad this may be the most pertinent. After years of enduring a Bush hate-fest and growing Anti-Americanism, it would be nice to have a president who is not reviled around the world but actually respected.

The buzz for Obama, though, has reached far beyond the shores of the United States.  A survey of European, Asian or perhaps, more importantly, Middle Eastern media indicates that Obama’s presidential bid is being viewed especially favorable by foreign audiences.  And much of American power in the world has always relied on its tacit power to inspire rather than its physical ability to subdue.

But whoever becomes the 44th president of the United States will have to work overtime to repair the damage, both nationally and internationally, that the 43rd president and his administration will leave behind.

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