A More Mythic Battle

In more non-news today, we come to find out that Hillary Clinton, big shocker here guys, is still leading Senator Barack Obama in the polls for the Democratic Presidential nomination. I would act shocked for the sake of spicing things up a little bit, but I’m not.

She’s been the front runner the whole way through, she has the big nasty machine on her side, and she has clearly outperformed everyone in every single debate to date without question. By all rights, if it weren’t for her gender and name, her ascendancy to the White House should be a mere technicality.

But this isn’t the case, and at first one is eager to explain it as a result of the fact that she is who she is; the very much unloved Hillary Clinton. You hate her, or you love her, there is no middle ground and hadly much room for improvement.

And yet I find myself beginning to find the fault in this logic. At the beginning of the primary campaign I was in league with those that would donate money to Hillary NOT to run, my belief being that a Clinton candidacy would be a disaster for the Democratic party and for the nation as such an idea would most certainly mean yet another Republican in the White House.

But I’m slowly shifting away from this thought process and it’s not as a result of my typical cheerleader-esque attitude towards the Democratic party. In fact, I’ve found that generally I’m growing more comfortable with being critical of my political party of choice as evidenced with posts I’ve written against Senator Harry Reid.

No, my newfound hope for the Clinton campaign stems from the horse race addict in me. I’m on the sidelines watching a campaign that is unmatched in its discipline and capabilities, and watching a candidate who destroys the opposition in the debates. In short, by all conventional logic, there should be no candidate right now announced or unannounced who should be able to touch her.

And yet, while Clinton leads her Democratic colleagues in the primaries, she doesn’t fare so well in the mythical match ups against potential Republican nominees. In fact, she has a tendancy to lag a little behind Obama and Edwards.

Does this mean that America is not ready to vote for Hillary? I’m not so sure. The idea occured to me that this campaign, perhaps more than any other in recent history, is not so much about the candidate, as it is about the party.

Reagan was an unforgettable personality coming in to wrest the control of the country from a terrible president by most accounts. Bush Senior was riding the coattails of Reagan’s popularity, and was voted out of office after his first term.

Clinton was a charmer, and in a race that had a viable third party candidate, it was plain to see that both of his elections were about the person, not the party. Even George Bush, coming in with his new ideas of “compassionate conservatism”, and providing a stark contrast to the stiff Al Gore who inadvertantly picked up at least a little of the scandal stink from the last few years of the Clinton administration, was voted in as a candidate, not as an avatar of the party.

But here we are, heading into 2008, and the picture looks significantly different from what it has in the past. We are getting ready to say good bye to the worst president of our time, perhaps ever, who is leaving the nation widely polarized with the exception of two issues, the war in Iraq and disapproval of DC. And no matter how hard we try to ignore the fact, whoever takes over does not have an easy job waiting for him or her.

The polarization of the country, I think is a huge part of what we I believe we are seeing. The issues and political news is increasingly about Republican and Democrat and not about bipartisanship or individual ideas. The war between the two major political parties has gained mythic proportions of its own.

And so what we are seeing is that while the primary polling numbers are what they are, the prospective general election match ups are very interesting. I think they are closer than what I would have thought and the individual factor from one candidate to the next not levying as big of an impact as party.

In the end, what I think this presidential election will be about is not so much Hillary vs. Giuliani, or Obama vs. Thompson, but about the Donkey vs. the Elephant. With Republicans the big push is to move away from Bush as fast as possible without inadvertantly getting attached to the hip with him, something that might happen if a real censure or impeachment motion were to hit the floor.

With Democrats, it seems almost as though they are fighting the image of ineffectualness. Bush has run rampant for these last six years, where were you in the fight to stop him?

I’m not sure of the specifics and the details as of yet, it’s all a new concept really. But it just strikes me as odd. On both sides, there are very small differences from one candidate to the next; Democrats spend much of the debates admitting they agree with their colleagues, and squibbling over the minor stuff while Republicans getting into pissing matches over who’s the most conservative, trying to thread the needle of being the one most like Bush, but actually in ownership of more than two brain cells to rub together.

In any case, I’m slowly coming of the mind that perhaps this coming general election will supercede the qualities of the candidates themselves, and in far larger blocs than the old party stalwarts, too.

Or maybe it’s just that the Clinton campaign is a moving paradox, a perfect political machine making gains when she shouldn’t, and defying the conventional wisdom of pundits who counted her out before she even started.

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