04/23/2008 08:14 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If You Will It, It Is No Dream: In Defense of an Obama-Clinton Ticket

After millions of wasted dollars and endless amounts of pyrrhic pugilism, philistine pandering and pro-gun posturing, the Pennsylvania primary did not change anything. Hillary won, but she won modestly: the tide is not turning.

The candidate of realism needs a reality check, while the candidate of hope needs to stop getting his hopes up. Neither Hillary nor Obama is capable of closing the deal. Hillary will continue to fight an uphill battle all the way to Denver while doing little to mitigate her negatives. Though only diminutively behind in delegates, popular votes, and states won (she makes up in electoral math what she lacks in actual numbers), it is hard to see how Hillary could survive a superdelegate insurrection against the so-called frontrunner. Obama, however, cannot hope his way to the nomination. He has not, and presumably cannot, offer Hillary a final debilitating blow. His lead is real, but marginal and unconvincing. Why should she exit the race, Hillary correctly reminds him, when Obama gives no compelling reason for her to go?

Unless Hillary loses big in Indiana (and there is no indication that she will), when all is said and done, neither candidate will secure a convincing victory over the other. Both candidates have weaknesses, but both have managed to survive the vetting of the other. Both have generated impressive amounts of voter support, but both have failed to make significant inroads into the other's base. In short, both have plateaued.

Superdelegates should take note: whether our candidates like it or not, Democrats want them both. In Pennsylvania, the Democratic electorate has told us more of the same: Democrats are unwilling to definitively decide between them. Since Obama and Hillary are unwilling to join a unity ticket before inflicting further damage on the party, superdelegates should act for them. To end the Hillary-Obama stalemate, to protect our candidates from themselves, and to avoid a confrontational convention, superdelegates should follow the will of the electorate and force a unity-ticket (regardless of who is chosen to lead it).

Described as unfeasible by some and pooh-poohed as naive by others, the dream of an Obama-Hillary ticket, as Patrick Healy of the NY Times writes, remains potent and widespread . Most conspicuously, a former Clinton aide has recently started an online petition for a unity ticket, which has already attracted the support of thousands. Because the Democratic electorate wills it, the unity-ticket is no dream.

Not only a favorite of voters, a shared ticket was promoted by former governor Mario Cuomo in a recent well-argued op-ed. Cuomo, like myself, has called for both candidates to pledge a unity ticket to forestall Democratic civil war. Unfortunately, Cuomo's very good idea was trivialized by Charlie Gibson in last week's notoriously puerile and pathetic ABC debate; and more significantly, both candidates skirted the opportunity. But superdelegates would be wise to reconsider Cuomo's proposal and force this compromise regardless.

The benefits of a unity ticket are discussed in both our respective pieces (see links above). But since more skepticism has been generated (mostly from Obama supporters) around the issue, let me address some oft repeated questions:

If Barack Obama took Hillary as a running mate, wouldn't he undermine the ideological premise of his campaign, which calls for change and a new kind of politics?

First, while Obam-acolytes rush to preserve the purity of his message, they should keep in mind that Obama has never rejected the idea of asking Hillary to serve as VP. He consistently praises her record and asserts that she would make an excellent president (though, of course, he would make a better one). Obama has even playfully suggested the possibility of unity--as long as he topped the ticket.

Second, Obama's new kind of politics calls for consensus building, including outreach and reconciliation with potential swing Republicans and "those on the other side." What could be more demonstrative of Obama's new politics, than reaching out to opposition within his own party?

Finally, it is becoming increasingly clear that Obama's new kind of politics is only skin deep. His gloves have come off: like Clinton, Obama is now willing to resort to old-political style negativity and ad hominem attack.

How could Hillary help an Obama general election campaign?

In many ways, but let me list three:

Constituencies: As the presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin put it: "Obama and Clinton do fit in a jigsaw-puzzle way. She brings women, older voters, blue-collar workers, Hispanics, and he brings elites, liberals, the young and the crucially necessary black vote."

Historicity: A unity-ticket would guarantee historic victories to both African-Americans and women and help mitigate lingering primary animosities.

Energy: Both campaigns have generated tremendous excitement and voter turnout. Why sacrifice even a fraction of Hillary's base of support who will not vote for Obama if she loses? Could Wes Clark reclaim these voters for Obama or generate as large of a voter turnout as Hillary? The 2008 Democratic primary has been the stuff of the greatest political drama. Until the most recent negative turn, Americans enjoyed watching both candidates side by side during debates (recall the sparks flying in the Kodak Theater): so why end it?

Wouldn't Bill and Hillary get in Obama's way during the presidency?

The potential for friction exists independent of Obama's choice for VP. Even if the Clintons wanted to settle scores, they certainly would not need the vice presidency to get even.

Isn't it too late? Haven't they gone too negative?

Again, as Goodwin put it: "All of the arguments about how rivals don't like each other would fall away if either thinks the other could help them win."

Necessity is the mother of reconciliation.

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