Just when it seemed the Democratic Party would move into high gear and head for November with its presidential aspirations still in tact, it has been suggested in some quarters that Hillary Clinton might, after all, settle for second place and Senator Obama would be forced to choose her as his running mate. Originally Obama as runner-up on the ticket was deemed a political necessity in order to shore up his enthusiastic constituency.

The campaign produced a stunning reversal of fortunes, however, although it was feared Hillary’s tactics were so damaging Obama that he would stagger into November to face McCain with neither credibility nor dignity. Her pointed but muted “he’s unelectable” appeals to super delegates became a public outburst touting her support among “hard working white voters”. What happened next wasn’t a ground-swell of support for her but rather outrage from a wide swath of the electorate and the media and the absolute certainty that re-capturing the black vote would be next to impossible.

Some Clinton supporters speak of her tenacity, that she’s a fighter and is simply speaking the truth – – refer, they say, to primary exit polls. Obama may speechify about hope, but she doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk and besides, in case no-one has noticed, she epitomizes hope as in ‘great white’. The level of disgust engendered by her remarks has made her not only not a uniter but something of a liability except in the eyes of apologists who keep trying to explain away the toxic nature of her words by pointing to her life-long credentials as a civil-rights advocate. It isn’t helpful, though, to hear and see in print, that her tactics are reminiscent of the Republican “southern strategy” – – hardly the values most Democratic Party loyalists espouse.

Still, she retains a kind of mythic status as the first truly viable female presidential candidate. This is significant for many women who have struggled for years to be thought of as equal to any task traditionally considered the province of men. Clinton and her minions constantly insist she has been treated unfairly by the media simply because she’s a woman, a rather curious contention given the tenor of this primary season. And let’s face it; she wouldn’t be where she is had she not been the wife of a president. Her name recognition alone gave her a head start few other women, indeed few other men, could equal. Her talents and her intelligence would have guaranteed her success in many areas, but president? Not so much.

And so as this arduous primary battle winds down and the party begins to focus on November, decisions about a running mate and a presidential team will be the first most important matters Democrats need to address. It is rumored the Clinton folks are searching desperately for some damning scandal to sink Obama’s candidacy. It is late in the game for such a strategy and not much of a recommendation for including her on the ticket; it is quite possible, however, that she could play an important role in a new administration. And it is hard to believe her supporters, if a suffragette mentality united them in the first place, would desert the party and vote for McCain, given his unyielding position regarding the war in Iraq and judges who would tilt in favor of corporate interests and against a woman’s right to choose.

Surely it’s time to wrap up the Democratic primary season and focus on Senator McCain. He has voiced his intention, despite what wife Cindy says about not using smear tactics, to rehash the Reverend Wright controversy. That being the case, his embrace of the two nutty pastors in his camp and all those lobbyists, as well as the Keating matter could provide equally titillating fare. There may yet be surprises down the road, but scurrilous attacks based on what someone somewhere said about something that has nothing to do with the substance of current political realities should not frame the debate.

And let’s hope a running mate will emerge to complement and strengthen the top of the ticket – – perhaps someone like Senator Webb of Virginia, a veteran with a son in the service who has questioned the Bush foreign policy and introduced legislation requiring reasonable troop rotations and enhanced benefits for veterans – – two areas about which the current administration seems unconcerned for all its “support the troops” rhetoric.