A Democratic disaster in the November election looms, but it can be avoided by a demonstration of true leadership by our two leading candidates!
By the end of the Democratic primary process, no matter how robust the turnout appears, less than half of all Democratic potential voters will have expressed their preference. And because the primaries will have extended over such a long period, by August and the Convention some of the voters will have changed their preference as a result of the many revelations, faux pas and new bits of evidence that have intervened since they voted. Other entanglements also threaten the possibility of a selection at the Convention that would be supported by both the Obama and Clinton constituencies. Two states with significant Democratic strength -- Florida and Michigan -- may be denied votes and the specific role of the superdelegates may become a matter of serious and possibly irresolvable contentiousness.
Meanwhile the Democrats every day come closer to the end of the primary process without a clear choice for president, with alienation between their candidates growing, while the Republicans' candidate, John McCain, gathers strength unmolested within his own party and comforted by the squabbling among Democrats. Obama argues that he has won more delegates, more states and more popular votes in the primaries. He also argues the superdelegates should feel "morally obligated" to vote for the winner of the delegate count in the primaries because that would be the "democratic thing" to do.
The Clinton forces argue that the Democratic National Committee should find a way to count Florida and Michigan, both of whose primaries were won by Hillary, and should remind the candidates that the superdelegates were created specifically to override previous primary votes if they believed it was necessary to get the nominee most likely to win the election.
Recent polls of all Democrats whether they have voted in the primaries or not, show the two leaders virtually tied and indicate Clinton may be more likely than Obama to win the states the Democrats must take in order to succeed.
No matter how all these challenging questions are resolved the increasing contentiousness has left the two candidates -- and more importantly their distinct constituencies -- badly alienated.
Polls show that if the battle continues to a conclusion at the Convention a significant portion of the constituency supporting the loser, disappointed by the selection of a candidate at the Convention will refuse to vote Democratic in November. That could cost the Democrats the election and bring back "Bushism", assuring the continuance of the tragic Iraq war indefinitely.
Whose fault would that be?
Who can solve the problem?
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton can -- by putting aside personal irritations, and to some extent personal aspirations, and agreeing to end the hostilities and form a ticket that gives us both of them, a candidate for president and a candidate for vice president who is clearly good enough to serve as president, should the occasion arise. That candidate for vice president would also have a good chance of being elected as president eight years from now because neither of the two would be too old in 2016.
If they are not capable of doing that, alternatively, the two could announce they will complete the primary schedule and Convention with the winner becoming candidate for president and the other agreeing to be a candidate for vice president, thereby mollifying to some extent the constituency of the candidate who was not chosen as the nominee for president.
Think of it, over the next eight years we could elect both the first woman and the first African-American to become president of our nation. That's not a dream: it's a plausible, achievable, glorious possibility -- if our two remaining candidates have the personal strength and wisdom to make it happen. The joint statement announcing their agreement would rock the nation and resound across the globe -- sweeter than any political poetry; smarter and more meaningful than any tightly intelligent political prose.
And all it takes is two votes!
If, on the other hand, the candidates refuse to work out a way to keep both constituencies firmly in the Democratic camp for the general election, it may make of the 2008 primary the story of a painfully botched grand opportunity to return our nation to the upward path, and leave us mired in Iraq and government mediocrity.
Originally published in the Boston Globe.