Tonight’s Democratic debate at 9pm EST in Cleveland, Ohio (airing on MSNBC) will be the most important Democratic debate of this election cycle yet. It’s been described as a do-or-die moment for Hillary Clinton. Her campaign has been steadily losing steam for weeks now and every attempt to regain some momentum has either failed miserably or backfired. Her recent attacks on Barack Obama, both personally and through surrogates, have been dismissed as the desperate flailings of a candidate on her last leg. Many commentators are about ready to write off her candidacy. But what can she do?
Going negative during this debate will only backfire horribly. She’s already fairly unpopular, and unpopular politicians aren’t able to get away with negative attacks. She has to stay positive, even though that doesn’t seem to have been working for her so far. It’s not exactly a Catch-22, but there’s precious little she can do to salvage her chances of success. It’s really Obama’s to lose at this point. But that’s not a likely possibility because he has been so impeccable so far. He’s not the kind of person you can trip up, or swim rhetorical circles around. That’s why this debate is the most important one yet. I think, by the end of the night, we will know for sure if Hillary Clinton is sunk for good.
I support Barack Obama primarily because I favor his policy positions over that of Hillary Clinton and because I think he would be a more effective leader, but ignoring all of that, he would still be the more significant person to win the presidency in terms of the message it would send to the rest of the world. The choices are between a racial minority and a woman, and having a minority be our president would be more significant. Look at the rest of the Western-style Democracies. Many of them have had female leaders. It’s not such a big deal to them. But very few of them have had minority leaders.
Across the globe, at least in countries with Western-style Democracies, racism is far more prevalent than sexism. Most other democratic nations are fairly insular, with relatively few immigrants and a monolithic culture. In contrast, the United States is the melting pot. Only here do we have large populations of many different minorities. Only here, because of our unique history, is it possible to have an ethnic minority govern one of the world’s large democracies. In the United States we’ve lost perspective because we’ve never had a woman nor a minority president, but in the overall scheme of things, and especially in terms of how we are viewed by the rest of the world, electing a minority president would be more significant. So ignoring any other factors and judging purely in the interests of gender and race (which, I admit, is sexist and racist in itself), Barack Obama would still be the better, more progressive person to call our next president.
Update post-debate: So I’m still not exactly sure what Hillary Clinton needed to do to rescue herself in that debate, but that wasn’t it. Barring a totally unforseen incident, I think Barack Obama takes it.