Is there a “catharsis” on the way?

According to this report, the Obama and Clinton camps are near an agreement whereby Hillary Clinton’s name will be placed in nomination for the convention’s roll call vote. Clinton had said recently that such a vote would serve as a “catharsis” for her supporters, thereby helping the party unite behind Obama. Supposedly, the Obama camp shared this view. Indeed, the two camps are claiming that there is little tension between them and that negotiations over the roll call and other matters have gone smoothly. This might well be true, but if it is one might ask why it has taken so long to get to the brink of a resolution, and why the matter still isn’t fully resolved.

Making sure that Hillary supporters fall in line behind is campaign is surely a top priority for Obama at the convention. Therefore, his interests lie in accommodating the Clintons. At the end of the day, though, the extent to which the Clintons themselves embrace Obama will depend on how they perceive their interests, not on the degree to which Obama agrees to their demands. Still, the last thing Obama wants to do is to create grounds for Clinton supporters to feel aggrieved.

But a substantial Clinton role creates a dilemma for Obama. On the one hand, he does not want to be upstaged. On the other hand (and this risk is more subtle), if Obama overcompensates in response to fear of being overshadowed by the Clintons, he risks reinforcing the growing perception that he thinks too grandly of himself. E.J. Dionne has argued that “Obama’s imperative at his convention is to reassure voters about who he is, while also moving the spotlight off himself.” Trying to outdo the Clintons is in tension with that “imperative.”

Obama, then, probably needs to walk a fine line. But does he recognzie this?


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