For those counting the days to the 2009 end of the Bush presidency in the USA (and there are even more in other parts of the world than in America itself) the question of who will contest the next election is no small matter. Aside from the media fluttering around Barack Obama and John McCain over the past couple of weeks, and even though my own preference would have been for an Edwards candidacy, I'm still pretty convinced it will be Hillary Clinton against Rudy Guiliani. [A month later... wrong, wrong wrong. See my comment] The Democrats will go for Clinton because she's smarter and tougher than anyone else in the race. The Republicans (even large chunks of the religious right) will go for Guiliani because the political drift is against the GOP, and they need a candidate who can appeal to more than their heartlands. [McCain fits that bill, too] My faith in the mainstream options is distinctly limited, but along with Patricia Williams, professor of law at Columbia University and a regular columnist for the Nation, I now hope for a Clinton-Obama ticket, one way round or the other. As Williams puts it in today's Observer:
"In the coming months, I expect to see much confusion as the importance of gender, the visibility of race and the commitment to pretend none of it matters is sorted out. The American public is reeling with images of Hillary, our first viable female candidate for President, floating on the endorsements of a raft of black religious leaders, and Obama, our first viable black candidate for President, flanked by a pride of Oprah-watching, white 'soccer moms'. Add a sprinkling of Bill Clinton, popularly caricatured as our 'first black President'. Fold in Michelle Obama, popularly caricatured as an outspoken career woman who doesn't like to stay home and bake cookies any more than Hillary. Turn the pressure cooker to high.
"As the right's Rovean spinmeisters kick into action, wrapping both Obama and Clinton in sticky webs of hybridised stereotypes, she will be cast as too 'mannish', he too 'boyish'. She'll be too familiar, he too foreign.
"Yet I pray that we Americans can resist the vicious, vacuous, mudslinging mire of malapropisms from which the Bush presidency loped to power. This is an extraordinary moment in American history: we have our first serious black and female presidential candidates and they are, indeed, twice as good as their nearest contenders. I hope that the two of them, in whatever order, will become running mates by November. They must not fall prey to those who would love to see them played against each other in the scramble to be top dog."