A lawyer enamored of Barack Obama for president says she temporarily has stopped going out for drinks Fridays after work because her friends, other women, keep berating her for not supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the first female president.
Civil-rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a longtime friend of former President Bill Clinton and his wife, somewhat sheepishly has dropped his endorsement of the former first lady in favor of Obama.
Lewis, who is black, cited his belief that Obama will help pursue his goal of racial equality. He said of the Obama phenomenon, “It’s a movement. It’s a spiritual event. It’s amazing what’s happening.”
Conservative Republicans long dismissive of John McCain are being besieged by more moderate colleagues to get on board his campaign bus to prepare a united front for November.
We are in the midst of the peer-pressure primaries.
In 2000, a seriously close election, few Democrats voting for Al Gore tried to proselytize their Republican friends committed to George W. Bush. There was so much anger over the disputed outcome that it divided the country almost right down the middle, except for a brief period of unity after 9/11.
This year, Americans are politically revved up as most of them have not been for years. And many are not shrinking from touting their choice from the rooftops.
Any way it goes, it’s a first. The oldest person — and a prisoner of war for five years — ever elected to a first term. The first woman. The first black.
A year ago, there were few who thought Hillary Clinton would not snare the Democratic nomination. In recent weeks she has watched her chances shrink down to what the voters think in Ohio and Texas. A year ago, few even knew who Obama was. Now he is treated like a rock star. And the once-formidable Hillary Clinton is reduced to sarcasm, always a bad sign in politics.
A year ago, there were so many Republicans in the race that McCain was listed alphabetically. Now voters are consumed with whom he should choose for a running mate.
And for the first time in many years, some Democrats are wondering if the moderate McCain who intrigued them in 2000 might end up winning the White House. Some of them say they are considering voting for him and even urging their buddies to join them. Some Republicans who have spent much of their entire adult lives voting for a Bush for president now are thinking they might just vote for a Democrat.
(Then there’s 74-year-old Ralph Nader, who seems to have lost it, clamoring in the background for attention although the parade has passed him by and Hillary Clinton and Obama have endorsed many of his positions. It’s hard to believe any sane Democrat would vote in 2008 for Nader, who cost Gore the 2000 election.)
Before we get too carried away with the notion that this may not be a year of the total partisan vitriol we’ve seen in the past, it should be noted that some Republicans have already gone after Obama for his middle name (Hussein), the lack of a flag pin in his lapel and his wife’s burst of patriotic exuberance in saying she now felt pride in her country. Somebody supporting Clinton sent forth on the Internet a picture of Obama in African robes supposed to make him look silly. Meanwhile, Clinton’s been notably complaining about an Obama flier she says mischaracterizes some of her positions, while McCain is struggling to stay above the fray.
But still, Americans so far are not being knee-jerk, party-line voters as they were in 2004. They’re voting because they’re worried about their country, excited about the possibilities of new blood in the White House and interested in what the candidates of both parties are saying.
Yet, the lawyer who’s been avoiding the bar outings says she feels a sharp stab of guilt at not supporting Clinton. If Obama hadn’t fired her up, even the newly quixotic Clinton, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes misty-eyed, sometimes outraged, would have been her candidate.
(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail amcfeatters(at)nationalpress.com.)