Leading article: Time for the Democrats to rally around Mr Obama

Related Topics

The epic contest for the Democratic presidential nomination looks as though it is at last winding down. With his convincing victory in North Carolina and the narrowest of defeats of Indiana, Barack Obama finally appears unbeatable. Mrs Clinton, whose fighting spirit has been one of her greatest assets through this protracted campaign, would be wise to call it a day.

We say this with some regret. It has been a thrilling ride and, for those of us watching from abroad, a veritable primer in US politics and geography. Mrs Clinton has gone from being the nominee to beat, with a war-chest as inexhaustible as her contacts book, to defiant underdog, and ultimately to doughty pugilist on an equal footing with her younger rival.

Battle-hardened and resilient, she campaigned best when the pressure was greatest. If her run is reaching its end, she cannot be accused of faintheartedness, or lacking capability for the job. As the first truly plausible female candidate to run a presidential campaign, Mrs Clinton has shown that, for the right candidate, what is indisputably the world's top job is within reach.

Probably, she was not the right candidate. Too much political baggage came with her brilliant, but flawed, husband. And two Clintons after two Bushes may have had too much of the dynasty about it for voters' comfort. However competent she appeared, there were also unanswered questions about exactly who she was and what she stood for. After eight disastrous years of George Bush, Americans seem in no mood for that sort of gamble.

Mrs Clinton's defeat, of course, is Barack Obama's victory. His rise, from a standing start as a young, relatively untried, black Senator, has been at once remarkable and inspiring. Hard work, unbounded energy, a rhetorical gift and a sense that there was everything to gain and nothing to lose doubtless contributed to his success. But it was the total package of thorough-going change that clearly appealed to American Democrats.

The post-Bush mood is clearly for a fresh start, and no one personifies a new America more than he does. The party rank and file have shown they will take the risk of nominating a young black senator for President. It is this sense of adventure, this willingness to give promise a go, that is one of America's most enviable traits.

Much has been made of the damage so long and divisive a contest has inflicted on the Democrats' presidential prospects. Assuming he is nominated, Mr Obama will need to spend much time courting opponents within the party. Mrs Clinton will need to put the party's interest above her own ambition. We doubt that she would, or should, accept an invitation to be his running-mate, even if it were extended. But his choice will say much about the sort of president he wants to be.

For all the drawbacks of this long and bitter campaign, however, it may not have been entirely negative. It has tested both candidates, but especially the younger man, in a way that was absolutely necessary. Barack Obama has matured as a candidate before our eyes. He has demonstrated that he can cope with reverses; he can adjust his register; he can present his case. He has shown, too, that he has thought through one of his country's most deep-rooted and enduring problems – summed up in the single word, race.

It is time for the Democrats to bury their differences and prepare to do battle with John McCain, the Republican who will be their opponent in November. With youth pitted against age, and promise against experience, we look forward to another absorbing contest. And, whatever the outcome, Mr Obama will be an infinitely better candidate for the trials he has endured along the way.

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'