For the Democrats: Obama
BARRING SOME UNFORESEEABLE EVENT, the Democratic Party is about to make history. Its presidential nominee this November will be either the first woman or the first African-American to carry the standard of a major political party. With the contest between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois a virtual deadlock, Ohio Democrats on March 4 can play a critical role in this historic decision.
As usual with intraparty battles, the policy and ideological differences between Clinton and Obama are slight. Both share the party's liberal traditions on social and domestic issues. Both are committed to expanding health coverage and to closing the gap between rich and poor. Both oppose the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq. Both promise to break America's addiction to carbon-based fuels.
Given these similarities, Ohio Democrats have to ask themselves which candidate is more likely, first, to win the White House, and, then, to persuade a closely divided country to embrace his or her vision of change. Put even more pointedly: Who is more likely to change the world of a child born in 2008?
The answer, we think, is Barack Obama.
Although Obama stands on the precipice of a historic breakthrough, his personal story is a classic only-in-America saga: A white mother from Kansas. A black father from Kenya. A childhood in multi-ethnic Hawaii. Scholarships to Ivy League schools. Work as a community organizer and later a law professor in Chicago. Two terms in the Illinois Senate, then a landslide election to the U.S. Senate. An electrifying keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
That speech laid out the template for this campaign. He has challenged America to move beyond rigid racial, religious or partisan divides to focus instead on shared, national goals. It's a message that appeals to young voters and independents, to disillusioned Democrats eager to regain a sense of possibility and, yes, hope.
Obama's frequent talk of hope strikes some people as naive. It leads others to question his toughness. But Obama understands something his critics do not: Change requires vision and optimism, shared sacrifice and mutual trust. Hope can sustain those elements; a presidency defined by political tactics cannot.
Hillary Clinton is an exceptionally bright and accomplished woman. Only a fool could dispute that. It would be nice if Obama's policy proposals were as meaty as those she has put forward. It's no wonder she wants Democrats to see this race as a choice between resumes.
But in a campaign where history matters, she carries an inordinate amount of baggage. Who wants to relive the soap operas of the 1990s?
Bill Clinton says his wife excelled at "making positive changes in other people's lives." Consider that construction. Then listen as Obama talks of bringing people together to change their own lives.America needs a fresh start. Barack Obama is the Democrat to provide it.