Obama/Clinton: It's more than the numbers

Dateline: Wed 13 Feb 2008

Why is Sen. Barack Obama sweeping states and making inroads with voters who supposedly were on the fence or leaning towards Sen. Hillary Clinton? His Potomac surge, handily winning D.C., Maryland and Virginia, now means he is victorious in 23 of 35 contests, which puts him at the top of the heap in number of delegates. He's on a roll to the convention, with no end in sight.

Why? As Chris Matthews said this morning on MSNBC, Obama is the "Christmas morning" candidate; he makes us feel good about ourselves, our country and our future. He promises -- trite but true -- hope. To bring into contemporary play the words of FDR, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," ...the only thing we have to hope for is hope itself.

Obama is just that. His considerable strength, in comparison to Clinton, is as much about what he is not as what he is. He is NOT the status quo or the legacy, not the hectoring voice, not the harsh, know-it-all "I only want what is best for you" nanny or big daddy. His policies may be superficially similar to Clinton's, but he is a new day, a new way, a fresh start. He's the kid who "got" the futility and wrong-headedness of the war; she's the adult who fell for the bullshit.

This is why, unless something drastic happens, Hillary Clinton cannot compete, no matter what rabbit she and Bill pull out of the hat or what dirty tricks they engineer or how many pat old slogans she recites.

Even those who say they won't vote for Obama -- I'm talking diehard conservative Republicans here -- sense that he is genuine, that he believes his message, that he is the real deal, the true American story, the idealist, for which we are all suckers. That's why his speeches continue to inspire crowds, whereas Hillary's are dull and formulated snoozers. But then she married her success and clung to his coattails; Obama earned his.

An analogy for this race is Peter Pan -- whimsical, but epic. Obama is Peter: youth and joy and filled with promise. Hillary is Hook, "old, tired, done for," preening on deck but essentially impotent and at times ridiculous. Bill Clinton is Smee, the rather nasty "left hand man" for Hook. I'll leave it to others to assign the roles of Tinker Bell and the crocodile, because already this has gone too far...

Snicker if you want, but this race is a fairy tale, in the sense that we all relate to archtypes and we all sense powerful, intangible forces at play.

Hillary's current mean-spiritedness -- CNN is already calling her a "sore loser" for failing to acknowledge or congratulate Obama on his latest victories -- only re-enforces her jealous Captain Hook persona.

On that score, one has to abandon the Peter Pan analogy and ask: who is it here who really refuses to grow up?


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