It’s finally over.
The epic battle between Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama is over in all but name, and Obama has emerged as the party’s and the people’s choice.
He can finally stop swatting away increasingly desperate attacks from Hillary and begin to look towards the much more dangerous, tougher and rougher attacks that will come from GOP nominee John McCain.
In other words, he is about to get into that stage of the campaign where he can carry the banner for a whole party and where he can be the Democratic leader for all other Democrats, including congressmen and women, senators and governors.
There’s only one problem — the whole party isn’t behind him yet.
There are a lot of folks that really, really wanted Hillary to be the nominee, me included.
But folks like me are easy, because we are pretty attached to the party and pretty repulsed by the Republican mantras.
For many American democrats, though, the choice isn’t nearly so clear.
“Lunch bucket” democrats, as they have been dubbed, have a big choice to make.
Do they want to vote for the young, black man from the big city, or do they want to vote for the safe, white war hero.
Obama will have to get people to rise above the petty issues that divide them and get them to choose a president that they aren’t entirely comfortable with.
That is going to be hard, but Obama has shown that he is capable of winning everyone over — everyone.
He is a whole new kind of American presidential candidate, and he has the ability to win the hearts and minds of every Democrat and many Republicans.
But having the ability to win people over and actually doing it are very different things.
Adding to his challenge, Clinton is still racing around campaigning and gathering a core of supporters who continue to choose her over him.
And at every stop she is reminding everyone that he still hasn’t won over the “lunch bucket” folks.
In fact, she is driving a wedge between them and Obama at every turn.
Complaining about what she is doing is a waste of time.
It doesn’t matter to her what Obama or his supporters or anyone else thinks.
What matters to her is solidifying a base from which to negotiate.
He can ignore her. He can berate her. He can deride her. But in the end, he will still have to negotiate with her.
So, that’s where he will begin.
It will be quiet and behind the scenes, but it will happen.
And it will happen for one simple reason — he needs her supporters and winning them over will be much easier with her endorsement.
On some level, it’s unseemly that he has to give Clinton anything. After all, he won, fair and square.
But really, so what?
If he minded “unseemly,” he wouldn’t be in politics. He has made much of his “toughness” honed in the nasty world of Chicago politics, so he knows exactly what is going on and how to respond.
To suddenly pretend he doesn’t have to reach out with some olive branch now is one of two things: either it’s hypocritical, or more likely, it’s an eradication policy.
He might be thinking that he can make Clinton look so absurd that she will completely implode and leave herself without a base in the party.
He will be tempted to let her choose her own self-destruction.
That will be some of the advice he is receiving today.
I hope he is too smart to take it, because if she self-destructs, he’ll lose the election.
Her imploding doesn’t win him any votes.
It just pushes the poor, white small-c conservative voter away from the party as a whole.
Still, it will be tempting and there are those who will counsel him to take the risk.
But if that’s what he chooses to do then he won’t just lose “lunch bucket” voters — he’ll lose party stalwarts like me.
Yeah, it’s hard and unfair and problematic. But he wants to be president.
Get used to it.
Michael Hale is a former journalist and party hack who knows that peace in the valley comes with a cost. You can read his blog at north60hale.blogspot.com