06/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Makes History, But Can/Will he Unite Democrats Against McCain?

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The inevitable is no longer postponed. It's now official. Illinois Senator Barack Obama will represent the Democratic Party in the November general election for president against the Republicans' presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain (AZ). For sure, this is certainly an historic event and a major accomplishment for a 46-year-young black man named Barack Obama with just 3 1/2 years' experience in national politics. Nothing should take away from Obama's victory and what it means on a broader scale for Americans going forward. But watching the election night analysis while awaiting the results from the South Dakota and Montana primaries, I can't help feeling that perhaps, when the euphoria of this incredibly momentous occasion in our nation's 232 years settles down, the Democratic Party might be left with an inferior candidate who's going to be facing a monumental uphill battle against a ruthless, more time-tested political machine. One that will, as in the past, do and say anything to remain in power. A gang of thugs that will steal elections if they have to. Will Democrats awaken on November 5th heartbroken, as they have in the last two presidential elections?

As expected Tuesday, Obama won Montana handily, by a 15% margin. But he lost South Dakota by 10%, where he had led in the polls. It should be noted that no matter how hard former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle stumped for Obama in this, his home state, his efforts failed to deliver a win for his candidate. When you look at the long list of names of Obama's key surrogates like Daschle, Tom Harkin, John Edwards and John Kerry--notable liberals who've had their own major political failures--it gives pause as a possible foreshadowing of Obama's own fate come November.

Not to rain on the Dems' parade, but with the primaries over, it's impossible to ignore the fact that, according to her campaign and independent tallies from and other sources, Hillary either won the popular vote (with Michaigan) or virtually tied ( without Michigan) and lost the pledged delegate count by just 127. Or that Obama failed to reach the required minimum number of these same pledged delegates to capture the nomination as Kerry, Gore, Bill Clinton, Dukakis, Carter and others had done before him. And if not for super-delegates, many of whom were so over-zealous and excited by the historic impact of their vote and who couldn't wait to toss their support to Obama prematurely, he would not be the Dems' nominee. It's fair to assume that most of those very same super D's decided way before the race was over that Obama was their date for the dance, and that momentum, the electoral map and overall electability were of lesser concern. That's the only way to explain how their endorsements/votes could come many weeks, if not months, before June 3rd.

Which brings us back to the euphoria. The media and party officials are downright giddy over Obama's victory. About America's victory. MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Tim Russert were practically crying over it Tuesday night as they made the nomination victory call. Again, Obama's ascent is historic, and it does give goosebumps, especially to those of us who can remember the often violent racial turmoil of the 60's and 70's. Indeed, America has come a long way since then. But make no mistake: winning the Democratic nomination by the smallest of delegate margins and practically tying on the popular vote, is a far, far cry from being victorious in November. Obama, and therefore the party, has some very real problems before any real dancing can occur.

To be sure, Obama failed to unite his party. Obama failed to win a majority of his party's voters. Obama won less delegates than Hillary since March 1. He's also had problems attracting enough support among women, seniors, the white working class, Hispanics, Jews and Catholics--all critical constituencies for any Democrat expecting to win the presidency--to allay the concerns of many in his party. And he's now going to face an experienced Republican whose message will be that he's not Bush 3, and who'll cite his prominent breaks with the president and/or the party on the war, immigration, global warming and campaign finance reform as proof. He'll portray himself a maverick; an independent who'll bring about change. He'll highlight his history of bi-partisanship, of working across party lines with Senators like Russ Feingold and Joe Lieberman to "get things done." He'll stand arrogantly behind his decorated war-hero status to attack Obama's patriotism and ability to protect America from terrorists. We'll hear more lies about Iran and Hamas. McCain, his surrogates, the right wing media and the GOP attack machine will lie, deceive and distort the truth and Obama's record at every possible turn. And you can bet they'll shamelessly and recklessly play the race card using the Rev. Wright and Rev. Pfleger scandals. They'll remind voters in every possible subtle and perhaps even not-so-subtle way that he is white and Obama is not. Oh, it's going to get real ugly, all right. Is Obama--better yet--is America up to the challenge? We're soon gonna see just how far America has really come, baby.

Noted Republican consultant Ed Rollins said last week that Democrats are nominating the less electable candidate. "And this is going to present a big opportunity for us in November," he predicted. Let's hope he's dead wrong.

Lastly, let it be known that this writer was/is incredibly disappointed with Clinton's speech Tuesday night. She was neither gracious, conciliatory or emotionally rooted in reality. In refusing to concede defeat, she has us all guessing as to just what sort of Rovian shenanigans she has up her sleeve. But the classy thing to do would've been to congratulate Obama on his long-fought victory and vowed to to support him in uniting the party so that he can beat McCain in November. Instead, she took the low, disingenuous road yet again and ended up looking more delusional than ever. It's a sad footnote to a once brilliant future.

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