The US is at a crucial flexion point in selecting its next Democratic Candidate for President.
Eight years of serious blunders in Washington, since Bush edged out Gore in 2000, have left a large majority of Americans desperately hoping for and wanting new Presidential leadership.
A year ago Hillary Clinton looked like she had a 95% chance of being the Democratic candidate for 2008 – despite a lot of her obvious baggage, as she calls it.
A year ago Barack Obama looked like he had about a 5% chance of beating Clinton for the chance of being the Democratic contender, despite his obvious baggage of being unknown with limited experience, etc.
Today, their roles have been reversed and now Obama leads by a small but significant margin in all the metrics. Obama offered up something new, hopeful and exciting, particularly appealing to younger people, as well as people of all stripes all over the country. That enthusiasm produced to date over $240,000,000 from 1.4 million people and a well managed campaign. At the same time, Clinton faced her first real competition from Obama and her baggage weighed heavily on her, as people’s distrust of her grew and she ran low on money having expected to win early and easily.
Now, as the run for the nomination goes into its final innings, the country is faced with wrenching choices, the reasons for which a lot of people find it hard to discuss openly. Few people are willing to admit they may be prejudiced against either a woman or a bi-racial candidate. Though for sure there still are people out there who quietly harbor those kinds of thoughts.
The country is divided between these two candidates along a fairly clear fault line. Younger, forward looking people who don’t care much about racial matters and tend to see Obama as their leader into the future, and older more traditionally oriented people, who lived most of their lives in a racially bifurcated world, lean towards the hope that Clinton may bring back the golden years of the 90’s under her husband.
At the end of the day (hopefully soon) one or the other of the two has to be the candidate. How, can reasonable people now think about how to come to grips with that choice?
If the choice really boils down to the past versus the future, it might stand to reason that as younger people’s views appear to be preponderant, and since younger people obviously have a greater claim to the future, the scales should be tipped in the direction of the future.
In addition, at some point the country needs to bite the bullet and accept the fact that one of these two candidates, and their many supporters, have to be disappointed and also accept the fact that goes with that reality that inevitably there will be some risks that go with that choice. We also must remember that risks, though different in each case, go with either choice and most probably effectively cancel out in the general election process.
That takes us to the general election and what will inevitably prevail. Since the country desperately wants a new direction and new leadership, the person who best exemplifies the future’s needs will most probably prevail despite today’s subliminal concerns with the unspeakable issues. We know that the Republican candidate, despite his attraction as a war hero and a political maverick, will be hard pressed to be a candidate who can effectively bring the future into focus for our all important younger population.
Thus, the flexion point today is whether the Country will enter into a post racial era and deal with the future in new more bi-partisan forward thinking ways.
Frank Weil is the Chairman of Abacus and Associates, Inc., a private investment firm in New York, NY. He is the former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for the International Trade Administration in the Carter Administration. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.