Campaign 2008—Three Inspirational Stories

Note to Readers: The “What’s New” section has been updated.

One thing I came to truly appreciate from my work on the book Public Pillars/Private Lives was that every President has an inspirational story. You might hate a given President’s politics, you might even hate his guts, but you’ve got to acknowledge that each one’s journey to the top was impressive. In 2008 all three of our remaining players have extraordinarily inspirational stories.

Even if Barack Obama doesn’t become the next President, he has already accomplished what would have been unthinkable not too long ago—a man of color has become the Democratic front runner for President. Racism is still a problem in this country, but to say nothing has changed in the attitudes of white Americans is just, well, ridiculous. No African American could have accomplished in 1958 what Obama has accomplished in 2008. If Obama falls short in the end, part of the explanation will be white racism, but only part. There will be other culprits, too—his liberal views, inexperience, fall out over Jeremiah Wright (the US government invented AIDS to kill blacks, etc.), and perceptions of elitism on Obama’s part.

John McCain’s story is remarkable, too. At 70+ years of age, he would be the oldest first-timer elected to the White House. While some will look at that as a negative, there are many in our increasingly aging society who see McCain as an inspiration. From his days as a POW of the North Vietnamese to just last summer when he was buried under a host of more popular Republican candidates, McCain has demonstrated he is a survivor. He might not win in the end because some will see him as too conservative, others will see him as not conservative enough, some will question his integrity, and many people just want some kind of change.

But if you really want tough, how about Hillary Clinton? The candidate, who has done politically what no American woman has ever done, is in a tough spot. Obama has a majority of state victories, delegates, and popular votes; so of course Clinton focuses on her big win in West Virginia. Obama wins the hearts of well-educated liberals, so Clinton becomes the blue collar darling. After months of being wooed by both sides, John Edwards comes out in support of Barack Obama, butClinton soldiers on. It’s like that old lawyer’s axiom, “If you have the law on your side; argue the law. If you, um…” Okay I don’t remember how the rest of it goes, but if I did, it would apply here. Clinton continues to fight despite not really having the math or the rules in her favor. She might lose because of her views, her husband, or her character, but it won’t be because she’s a quitter.