Obama and Clinton are both epoch making candidates. If elected, Obama would be the first African-American President. If elected, Clinton would be the first woman President. Either would be historic and would shatter those glass ceilings that have kept the presidency in the hands of white males for the entirety of the nation's history. When you think about it, isn't it strange that Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh have had women leaders, but we haven't? But the time is coming, whether this election or the next, but in the coming years this will shatter.
E.J. Dionne writes a great article this morning that compares Hillary and Barack. There are many similarities -- especially in policy and even in religious commitment. What separates them in part is their background and starting point.
Dionne points out that Hillary's background working with her husband, led to a more top-down, institutionalized view of politics. She and Bill were part of the DLC, a think-tank committed to shaping the Democratic Party in ways that would reach out to Southern whites and working class northerners, two groups no longer sure bets.
Obama, on the other hand, got his start as a community organizer in Chicago, and therefore brings a bottom up/grassroots perspective. This maybe why he's seen as a listener, and willing to balance the concerns and needs of varying groups.
Their campaign styles are very different as well: Obama relies on passion, while Clinton relies on organization and discipline. And so, as Dionne writes in conclusion:
To win the Presidency, both Obama and Clinton, as Mr. Dionne suggests, will have to win over white middle America. We'll see what happens as this political season gets underway and George W. Bush becomes increasingly irrelevant.
Yet if Clinton and Obama present different profiles, they are, in certain respects, very much alike.
Both have displayed an unusually sophisticated and apparently genuine understanding of the role of religious faith in American politics. Both pride themselves on their ability, proven in their home states, to win over political moderates and voters not tethered to ideology.
And the woman who would become the nation's first female president and the man who would become its first African American president know how important the men and women of the white middle class will be to the outcome of the next election. Such voters will probably determine if either of them gets to become a national trailblazer -- and also if any other Democrat can find a way to get in the middle of their fight.