Recently on Blue Oregon I've seen supporters of Barack Obama publish comments pushing the idea that the race for the 2008 Democratic nomination was essentially over and that Hillary Clinton should drop out because of Obama's delegate lead. They've further implied that Clinton (and by extension her supporters) are somehow responsible for dividing the party just by staying in the race.
On those threads I made a couple of fairly general points: that Clinton has many millions of grassroots supporters urging her to stay in, volunteering their time and making contributions to keep her campaign going, and that in any event urging any Democratic candidate to simply quit when there's still a chance they could win is heavy-handed. As a Clinton supporter I've never urged that any other candidate drop out of the race; in fact I made campaign contributions to Edwards and Kucinich when it was clear they wouldn't win in the hope that they'd stay in longer to help frame the debate.
Strictly in terms of progressive policy and Democratic party platform, it is good that Hillary is still in this race. She pushes a more progressive health care agenda than Obama; who knows, even if he won the nomination she might be able to force a universal mandate into the party platform, which would be good for all of us. Hillary has a stronger record of commitment to the LGBT community as well as a stronger record on pro-choice issues; her strength at the convention will ensure those issues do not get swept under the rug in the name of some non-partisan "unity". I feel Hillary has a better green agenda and record on environmental issues when compared with the Obama/Axelrod ties to the nuclear industry, which I've written in detail about elsewhere. She's got experience and vision on what's needed to improve education at all levels and has decades of intimate knowledge of public policy for helping underprivileged and abused children. Hillary has spent years personally involved in crafting detailed policy proposals on economic development for the middle class. All of this expertise, progressive positioning and political clout will be a force for good at the convention; even if Obama wins a brokered or superdelegate-determined convention, Hillary might actually drive the party platform to his left on several of these issues.
But there is another reason that Democrats and progressives - even die-hard Obama supporters - need to keep an open mind, and that is the fact that vetting of Senator Obama is just beginning and it may well be - right or wrong - that he is not going to weather this storm as well as his supporters hope, and we will need to rally around Hillary. Yesterday Obama gave a very intelligent, heartfelt, and prolific address on racial issues in response to heat over his pastor Jeremiah Wright's radical comments from the pulpit over the years. As is evidenced by comments on Jeff Alworths's post here at Blue Oregon, Obama supporters felt the speech was brilliant and addressed all of the concerns anyone could have about the subject. But we wouldn't expect Obama supporters to have any other reaction; the question is how those who were seriously concerned about Rev. Wright are going to respond.
Undecided working-class Americans - who may not have sat through the entire 35-minute speech, but who have seen the Wright clips repeatedly on the news and the internet, and were in large numbers offended - may be a tougher sell than those at Blue Oregon who had already decided to support Senator Obama. Pragmatic prominent Democrats (including superdelegates) are becoming concerned how vulnerable this issue might make Obama against John McCain, with Republicans already touting that it's their silver bullet; it will be some time before we know if the issue is indeed disarmed, but current trends in polls make it appear that it is having a real negative effect, with Hillary regaining a statistically significant national lead and Obama also faring worse than he has against McCain.
I don't think any progressive Democrat believes that Senator Obama personally holds the views expressed by Rev. Wright. We also marvel at the rationality and nuance he had the courage to put forward in his speech. But we have to at the same time recognize that Wright's rhetoric is far more radical than outspoken African-American leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (the latter of whom I was proud to support in my first presidential contest in 1988), and his closeness to Obama is far more significant than, say, McCain's anti-Catholic booster (who was not a close personal friend of McCain or his family, as Wright is to Obama). The issue is not simply an issue of race, or of collective nuanced understanding of one another; it also speaks to the ability of the Obama campaign to get out in front of controversial issues and win over the center of the American electorate. Where supporters saw Obama brilliantly claiming the need to bridge these communities and not abandon Wright, critics are already saying Obama contradicted his earlier claim to have never heard Wright's incendiary, anti-American statements, that he exaggerated parallels to eccentric uncles and mis-speaking supporters of other campaigns, and in general that he may have said not too little, but too much, too late. Since the Obama campaign knew that Wright would be a liability (that's why Obama decided, late, to not have Wright participate in his Presidential campaign announcement), many strategists are wondering why this wasn't dealt with months and months ago, before it had a chance to go viral on the internet, on Fox News and in right-wing talk radio.
I do not expect this somewhat dissenting concern over the efficacy of Obama's handling of Rev. Wright to sway any Obama supporters here at Blue Oregon; I only ask you to keep an open mind, and realize that this race is far from over.