For those who remember, this was the title of a landmark film starring Sydney Poitier and Spencer Tracy in the late 1960’s dealing with the double speak of some liberals on the race issue. The father (played by Tracy) was a pro-civil rights liberal and, as a proud father, was looking forward to his daughter’s wedding to a prospective suitor. Surprise! The suitor turned out to be an African American (played by Poitier). The father, still holding to his convictions, worried more about the effects of a bi-racial marriage on the future children to explain his shock and disapproval. The moral of this movie was to show the gap that often existed between conviction and action between idealism and realism, and between authenticity and superficiality.
The current campaign involving the first African American candidate and the first woman candidate will test whether America has achieved the maturity to embrace a black candidate, inspiring and remarkable, or the first commander in chief who happens to be a very qualified woman. To a large extent, this choice has resulted in the ambiguity and the closeness of the race between Obama and Clinton. The longer the race continues, it seems the doubt associated with the choice is becoming a factor. The Republicans even with a new leader should not be as close in the race. With an unpopular war and a worrisome economy, this has to be the year of the Democrats. In recent weeks, however, we have seen the optimism and the confidence dissipate in some Democratic circles.
The upcoming primaries on April 22 and May 6 must play a decisive role. To pursue this race until the convention will result in a divided party and the possibility of defeat in November. Mrs. Clinton must win big in Pennsylvania, not just close. If Obama continues to narrow her lead, and loses by a small margin, Mrs. Clinton should consider giving it at best one more try on May 6. Beyond that, she would appear to be putting ambition and ego before the good of the American public.
Obama’s campaign has been tested on a number of occasions. He has rallied from behind and now has won the majority of the states. He leads convincingly in both the popular votes and the pledged delegates. If the situation remains as such by May 6, then the Clintons will face a Spencer Tracy dilemma. The only way to defeat Obama is for super delegates to decide that Obama cannot win the general election. On what grounds could they justify this reasoning? Based on the primary results? Not if Obama is still in the lead. Based on the latest polls against McCain? Obama has done very well in match up polls against McCain, and McCain remains vulnerable on the war and the economy. Based on the Clinton name? Not very convincing after the primary campaigns. On the race question? Now we come face to face with the Spencer Tracy dilemma.
Barack Obama is a quality candidate based on the content of his character, as Dr. King would say, and on the promise of transformational change. Obama has always downplayed the race factor and that is why he has been so appealing to white voters. The Clintons have always fought for equality between races, and Obama fits the profile of the kind of candidate that America has been waiting for. While this blog has said from day one that Mrs. Clinton was most qualified to be President, it has always believed that she must win in the most democratic way possible. The same standard has to be applied to Obama. So Hillary will have to decide within the next three weeks should no movement occur in her favor, whether she truly believes in the rhetoric and the convictions she has displayed over her entire life or whether she reacts just like Spencer Tracy when ‘Obama comes to dinner.’