With John Edwards out of the race, Democratic voters must squarely confront a choice this election season every bit as stark as that facing millions of Americans each year as they replace their outdated computers: Mac or PC.
We have all seen the ads, we know the right thing to do is to buy a Macintosh, but we hesitate. Will I be able to open all my PC files? Will it be able to run Outlook? Am I really going to make those photo albums and movies anyway? Am I cool enough for a Mac?
Obama, like the Mac, seems almost too good to be true. He's young, hip, inspiring, and promising to do for Democrats what Ronald Reagan did for Republicans, assemble and maintain the working majority in Washington desperately needed to enact changes in foreign policy, health care and energy security. And in soaring moments at the podium -- at the Democratic Convention in 2004, in Iowa at the Jefferson/Jackson dinner, at Ebenezer Baptist over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend -- Obama appears ready and able to make good on these grand promises.
But Democrats are still deeply divided. Having been in the political wilderness for much of the last 30 years, we are, understandably, a risk adverse bunch. We cling to Hillary like that old-reliable PC that we keep on our desks. We respond to her message: she's tested, able to handle every dirty trick Republicans will throw at her, ready on day one.
All true, but there's also the darker side of the story. As the hipster in the Mac commercial loves to point out, a PC isn't actually all that reliable: reboot, reboot. We all experienced the rollercoaster ride that was the eight years of Bill Clinton's presidency: we should be confident in voting for Hillary only to expect the unexpected. And PC owners just try to forget about the whole "blue screen of death," melted hard drive thing, just like Democrats put Monica, impeachment and disbarment as far from their minds as possible as they contemplate pulling another voting lever for a presidential candidate named Clinton.
Still, what if the alternative is worse? We think we know what we'll get with Hillary -- more of that '90s show -- and right now that doesn't seem bad. Plus no one is better at bare knuckles politics than the Clintons, and that may still be required to win the White House. What if Obama loses a foreign policy fight with John McCain, then where will we be. What if he can't navigate the slings and arrows of Washington, and ends up slinking back to Chicago in 2013 the way Jimmy Carter slunk back to Plains in 1981. No Democrat can afford that.
But we can't afford another four years of Washington infighting where nothing gets done either. For me, Macintosh sealed the deal last week when they introduced that new paper-thin, feather-light laptop. After clunking around my 10 pound, 2 inch-thick Windows job for the last 8 years, enough is enough. Perhaps for Democrats, seeing Obama trounce Clinton in South Carolina -- after taking everything the Clintons' could throw his way -- will have a similar effect.