183 To Go

183 to go.

That’s the number I stayed up until three o’clock in the morning ON A WEEKNIGHT to find out. That’s the number of delegates of any variety – pledged, super, rocky road, mint chocolate chip – that Barack Obama’s campaign needs to be able to plant the flag of victory at the Democratic National Convention later this year.

If you watched the Hillary Clinton victory speech in Indianapolis last night, you saw what I saw – a woman who was going through the motions as she spoke, her voice hollow, her posture limp, her eyes vacant as she willed herself to recite the meaningless campaign rhetoric to a crowd who could barely fake the listless level of enthusiasm they showed. Her husband’s face was red, his crimson cheeks and cherry colored forehead much more revealing than the professional politician’s innocuous smile he wore as she droned on about her will to win, her resolve to stay in the race, and her need, now more than ever, for more money to continue her odyssey towards the nomination.

I was on the phone with my brother as she spoke, spinning an alcohol-induced conspiracy theory about the lone county in Indiana that was refusing to report ANY vote totals as we got closer to midnight. I stopped in mid ramble – “Dude, this sounds like a concession speech – let me call you back!” – as her halting words came through the speakers. I didn’t need the detail of high definition TV to see her in a way the majority of the political commentators tried desperately to avoid describing accurately.

183 to go.

I think in a lot of ways it is harder for those of the pundit class to accept the fact that Hillary Clinton has absolutely no chance of earning – I’ll say it again here, EARNING – the Democratic nomination as the candidate the party will back for the presidency of the United States of America than it will be for the man in the street. These people have had to face the thing that the rest of America has been able to avoid up to this point – that in November, if you want to support the Democratic presidential candidate, you will be touching that screen or pulling that lever or checking that box for a man with brown skin.

If its still hard for me, a confessed political junkie these past few months, to deal with the enormousness of a black man who is one step away from being the president of this country, I know it must be three times as hard for those who have always expected to be led by someone who looks like them instead of someone who looks like me.

183 to go.

The Clinton campaign has canceled Hillary’s round of post primary public appearances on TV and radio that were scheduled to begin in a few hours. If you heard what I heard in the tone of Hillary Clinton’s voice as she claimed victory for the Indiana primary, you would recognize the sound of a woman who is wondering what just happened.

I know the feeling myself.

Although the campaign I ran for student body president of my high school almost twenty five years ago was not in the same league as a presidential bid, the dynamics were similar. I was the favored candidate, with lavish red, white and blue trimmed campaign boaters my supporters fought over, professionally rendered campaign posters, a slick slogan, and access to the school intercom as a voice behind the morning announcements. My opponent was a girl from across the tracks who was never organized and always late to everything.

In a student body of two thousand students, I lost by twelve votes.

The student council advisor was almost in tears. “I counted them three times,” she said to me. “I’m sorry.”

I had been so sure of victory that I had worn one of my campaign boaters to her office. How could I have lost? What went wrong? Who the hell were the thirteen idiots who couldn’t see that I was the better candidate?

After the anger faded I was embarrassed, ashamed that I had thought so much of myself, and humiliated by the thought of being beat by someone with less advantages on her side. It took awhile for me to see the things I’d done wrong. The things I’d ignored. And to understand that I had put more faith in symbols, like campaign hats, than the kind of substance that could make a few more students believe.

Mrs. Clinton has lived in another world, one that some have dubbed HillaryLand, for the past fifteen months. Emerging from the confines of this cocoon will be painful. It will be embarrassing, even though she will try not to show it.

She will survive.

Meanwhile, the O-Man will continue on his quest – on our quest – to be seated behind the desk in the Oval Office.

No red, white and blue trimmed Styrofoam boaters required

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