Saturday, June 28, 2008

Unified field theory

Union, N.J., wasn’t quite right. Nor, apparently, were Harmony, R.I. or Accord, N.Y. But for the long-awaited Kum Ba Yah convention of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Unity, New Hampshire (pop. 1,715, according to 2006 Census figures) was the proper setting — the right name on the right place for the former combatants for the Democratic presidential nomination to jointly appear Friday for the first time since Obama clinched that nomination.

There have been no news reports of any handholding and swaying among the 6,000 people attending the “Unite for Change” rally in that sunlit open field in Unity. In fact, some Clinton supporters have announced their intention to resist the building tide of good feeling, despite Clinton’s outreach.

The immediate sense was that such sour grapes are best distilled and sweetened into table wine at the Democrats’ new welcome table. But there may be something under that table. Something with teeth.

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It all sure sounded warm and fuzzy.

“To anyone who voted for me and is now considering not voting or voting for Senator (John) McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider," said Clinton, calling on her supporters to hook up with Team Obama "to create an unstoppable force for change we can all believe in.”

"We need them. We need them badly," Obama said of the two-for-one deal of Hillary and Bill Clinton. "Not just my campaign, but the American people need their service and their vision and their wisdom in the months and years to come because that's how we're going to bring about unity in the Democratic Party. And that's how we're going to bring about unity in America."

“We are one party; we are one America, and we are not going to rest until we take back our country and put it once again on the path to peace, prosperity and progress in the 21st century," Clinton said.

“For 16 months, Sen. Clinton and I have shared the stage as rivals for the nomination, but today I could not be happier and more honored and more moved that we're sharing this stage as allies to bring about the fundamental changes that this country so desperately needs," Obama said.

And in other, more substantial ways, the unity was real. They’ve apparently beaten their swords into donations: Both Clintons, Hillary and Bill, each made the maximum $2,300 donation to Obama's campaign Friday in an online transaction, aides said. The Obamas reciprocated with the same.

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All of which screams the question, the obvious one, about what one blogger called “Hillary’s delegate condition”: If all this goodwill, this unity is the real thing, why hasn’t Hillary Clinton released her remaining delegates?

One blog, Clinton Democrats, reported that “In a conference call with delegates June 9, Hillary reiterated she has ‘suspended’ her campaign, which means she is holding on to her delegates. In addition, she said she is seeking 300 more delegates to take to the convention.”

“Someone asked specifically if this meant Hillary would hold on to her delegates until the convention. [Clinton campaign manager Harold] Ickes said yes, so she can fight to make sure the platform includes issues central to her campaign, particularly universal health care. Ickes added that of course pledged delegates were free to work for Obama if they did not want to stay with Hillary until the convention in Denver."

But Hillary’s gambit calls on Clinton delegates to willingly embark on an existential dilemma — pledged to one candidate while working actively for another. You have to assume that if they’ve decided to work for Obama, they realize the value of his policies, compared to John McCain. Since those same delegates can vote their consciences at the convention in August, and having already committed thousands of hours of effort for Team Obama, there’s as much of a chance for Hillary Clinton to be embarrassed at the convention as Obama, and maybe more.

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What’s left is to get the disgruntled Clinton supporters on the peace train bound for Denver. Some won’t get on board no matter what.

“I will not vote for BO — it was a STOLEN election,” posts Rita on Marc Ambinder’s blog at

“Many of us Hillary Clinton supporters are now John McCain supporters. Hillary and Obama campaigning together will not sway us to vote for Obama,” – says S.A., posting on the Los Angeles Times blog.

Others would disagree.

“There is a stark difference between the Democratic and Republican platforms. I advise S.A. to read both before making a choice. If she supported Senator Clinton because of her policies than the choice is obvious. If she supported Senator Clinton because she is a white woman, well that's another choice.” – says P.C. Chapman, on the LATimes blog.

“I know many Hillary supporters who are behind Obama.
 Hey, I know it hurts, but the pain of losing the Supreme Court to the Conservative Right, the loss of a woman's right to choose, continuing to have our democracy morph into the fascist state that the Republicans have been creating, the pain of knowing that Mobil, Chevron and other oil companies have been awarded NO-BID contracts for Iraq's Oil, and that's why so many people had to die in Iraq... how can you possibly vote for McCain? …” writes Barbara Brockelman, at LATimes.

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The idea — the theory, if you will — of Obama and Clinton achieving unity in New Hampshire is a fine one, like theories often are on paper. But the torrent of angry pro-Hillary posts and fledgling Web sites launched after Obama secured the nomination suggest that bringing that idea to reality is still an uphill thing. Clinton’s backers still harbor grim suspicions.

In politics as in physics, a unified field theory attempts to bring fundamental forces together under a single framework. But the political version may be harder to achieve:

Gluons and photons don’t write Weblogs.

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