"We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."
-- Bergen Evans
Is it really over? Did Barack Obama really "clinch the nomination" last night, as every news outlet has been reporting?
The answer is yes -- if you believe the promises of superdelegates, i.e. politicians and party hacks. If everyone who has promised to vote for Obama at the Democratic Convention in Denver this August can be trusted, he can't lose.
Bill and Hillary Clinton, of course, are well versed in the fine art of equivocation and mendacity, and they know full well that promises can be broken when political expediency demands it. That's why Hillary didn't concede to Obama in her post-election speech last night, instead saying she wouldn't decide what to do next without consulting with supporters and party leaders.
In other words, before giving up, Team Clinton wants to check with the superdelegates one more time. At least.
IN THEORY, Hillary could heed the advice of her most fervent supporters, who greeted her speech by chanting "Den-ver! Den-ver! Den-ver!"
She could take this fight all the way to the convention. She could fight the decision that Democratic National Committee's Rules & Bylaws Committee made over the weekend, which gave Florida and Michigan each a half-delegation, by appealing to the full Credential Committee.
She could loudly pronounce that superdelegates' promises mean nothing until they've actually voted on the floor, keep making the case that she's the stronger candidate against John McCain, and wait for Obama to stumble enough to convince superdelegates that he can't win.
Would she really do that? The question has to be weighing on Barack Obama's mind. There's an easy way for him to fend off this nightmare: Pick up the phone and offer Hillary the vice presidential nomination.
The case for an Obama-Clinton "unity ticket" is fairly straightforward. Half of Democratic primary voters -- perhaps more than half, depending on how you count -- prefer Hill to Barry.
Obama's loss to Clinton in South Dakota last night put an exclamation point on his inability to consolidate Democratic support. For that, he needs the Clintons' help. Even if Hillary decides against a convention fight, she can do some damage by sitting still and not campaigning much on Obama's behalf. Offering her a place on the ticket is a sure way to get her out on the stump.
THE CASE AGAINST an Obama-Clinton ticket is equally straightforward. If you bring the Clintons along for the ride, you've got to make room in the trunk for their baggage.
Obama's campaign is built around a nebulous narrative of "change." He promises a break with the past. To Obama's most enthusiastic supporters, Hillary Clinton is emblematic of the past they'd like to leave behind.
The Obama Democrats are through with the Clintons. But that doesn't mean the Clintons are through with them.
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