03/05/2008 09:00 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hillbama Rises: How Democrats Can Avoid Civil War and Prevent Defeat

Easter has come early for the Democrats. On Tuesday night the party witnessed a miracle worthy of the Gospels: the inexorable Hillary resurrected her campaign from the dead, ensuring a near-interminable battle with Obama that could raze both candidates' chances for victory in November. Is it possible for Democrats to prevent this impending apocalypse? Can we protect our candidates from themselves while letting the nomination process run its course?

To save the Democratic Party from imploding into self-defeating and self-destructive civil war, Hillary and Obama should immediately pledge to appoint the other as their running-mate if nominated. The remaining months of the Democratic race would then determine who tops its ticket without playing straight into baleful Republican hands. The party would secure a united front against its nascent Republican threat and both candidates would avoid unnecessary and self-immolating attacks that undermine their viability in a national campaign.

The majority of the Democratic electorate has spoken, yet neither Obama nor Hillary seems to comprehend: Democrats want them both. Contrary to the specious assertions spun by spinsters from both sides, neither candidate will secure a majority of delegates or votes to truly claim an exclusive victory over the other. Hillary's second comeback is, like her first, not an index of "buyer's remorse," but an expression of a base excited with and committed to both of its choices. Even if one candidate manages to marginally eke out a diminutive delegate advantage, the fight will rage on over superdelegates and the Gordian knot that is Michigan and Florida. When a compromise is eventually brokered in Denver, Hillary and Obama may very well be forced to join a dream-ticket anyway -- why then prolong the inevitable, alienating each other's support while risking defeat, when a secure bulwark can be established today?

It is by now a truth universally acknowledged that, given the power and loyalty of Obama's national grass roots organization, his appeal to independents, and his conceptual opposition to the Iraq miasma, a Hillary nomination needs Obama to heal the wounds of a divisive primary and to secure victory. The benefits of an Obama courtship for Hillary are too obvious to be repeated. The reverse argument -- that any potential Obama nomination will be dependent on Hillary -- is less universally acknowledged, but certainly as true. Hillary's own grassroots loyalty (reflected in her own record-breaking fundraising abilities) has been underestimated by the media. Given the loyalty of Latinos, working-class and elderly women, Catholics, and Asian-Americans to Hillary, Obama (if nominated) would be working overtime to secure these essential votes while simultaneously battling John McCain. Obama must recognize that Hillary's ability to rebound after 12 straight losses reflects the Democratic electorate's deep commitment to her candidacy. Obama has already publicly attributed historic voter turnout to the strengths of both candidates; it is doubtful that any other choice but Hillary for VP (including John Edwards) could generate as much enthusiasm or draw out as many voters. Hillary, like Obama, is an unusual admixture of star-power (though we already know she cannot outshine him), intelligence, and experience; it is unlikely Obama will find another VP with stronger appeal.

With Hillary as a running-mate, Obama could capitalize on her strengths -- her health care plan, her global reputation, her foreign policy and economic expertise -- while minimizing her liabilities. True, Obama has marketed himself as a new kind of anti-establishment politician, but by embracing Hillary, Obama can demonstrate his ability to work through the establishment on his own terms, reaffirming his claims as a new kind of politician. After mocking Obama's rhetoric, Hillary's conversion to Obamaism would be a powerful symbolic gesture marking the strength of his candidacy.

Hillary and Obama would both find tactical boons by teaming up for the rest of the primary: Hillary, who must push to seat Michigan and Florida for any chance at winning the nomination, would protect herself from long-term resentment by Obama loyalists who will undoubtedly charge her with sabotage, betrayal, and theft. Obama could oppose readmitting Michigan and Florida without risk of losing these states to Republicans in a general election.

A unity-ticket would mitigate the gender/race divide slowly eating away at the Democratic Party by ensuring a historic victory for both constituencies. The rest of the primary might finally transcend identity politics and revolve around the substantive fulcrum of leadership and judgment (if not policy). Once a unity ticket is declared, Blacks might feel more comfortable voting for Hillary; women for Obama. Both candidates would repair relationships with vital constituencies.

I take it for granted that an upstart with little national experience like Obama would accept an offer for running-mate if necessary; but would Hillary settle for the same? By joining an Obama ticket, Hillary could finally redeem her reputation, cut through the phenomenon of Hillary-hatred once and for all, and rescue her name from the calumnious jaws of the Right. Hilary would demonstrate that she is truly committed to the well-being of our nation and is willing to do whatever it takes to change this country. This would make her a more influential, respected, and powerful national figure -- a true agent of change -- and might even situate her more comfortably for 2016.