Monday, April 28, 2008

Is Hillary taking down the Democratic party with her?

I've never aspired to be a political commentator. In fact, I would be one of the least qualified to talk about the American electoral process, and its repurcussions. But I do follow the general trend. And who are we kidding? This year's presidential elections promises to be one of the most interesting in recent memory. So with that in mind, I wanted to explore something that's been nagging at me for a while now.
Is Hillary taking down the Democratic party with her?
Consider what's been happening so far. From all accounts, Hillary has as much chances of getting the Democratic party nomination as Tim Henman has of winning the Wimbledon. That is, in theory, she can still win. And she has the right to fight it out till there is no theoretical chance of winning. This could take a while to prove. But the more she fights, the longer the democratic primary circus rolls along. And the more it rolls along, the more energy that is sapped out of Obama and Hillary, and the more dirt that is being dug up and thrown by each on the other.
Hillary makes some interesting arguments. She says Obama is outspending her 4:1 or whatever the ratio is, and still not able to take her out. She has a point. However, what she's not telling us is that, in places like Pennsylvania, she had a much bigger lead, that Obama has whittled down in the past few months. Also, if Obama can raise four times as much money as Hillary, it only speaks of his popularity and efficient fund-raising machinery. Both these abilities will serve him very well in the actual elections.
So now the question is where does Hillary draw the line between being selfish and exercising her rights, and doing what's right for the party and its greater good?

This is a hard question, and as a business school student, I find this a very interesting predicament. When books like Jim Collin's 'Good to Great' and Bill George's 'Authentic Leadership' define a true leader of an organization, they talk about someone who puts the greater good of his/her company before his/her own interests. A main ingredient of this quality is when to recognize that you are getting to be a liability for your own firm, instead of being an asset. Great leaders also innately make themselves redundant. That is, they put such capable people and processes in place that the company should never rely on one charismatic CEO.
It appears to me that Hillary is doing the exact opposite of this. Her campaign has pushed the limits of Obama's patience, and taunted him so much that he has had to step down from the lofty perch of dignified politics he had envisioned. They have tested his endurance and made a huge brouhaha on comments taken out of context. In effect, they have prolonged the democratic nomination so much that whoever gets the ticket might not have enough time to fight a well-prepared McCain in the presidential race. All this would be fine if Hillary stood a 50-50 chance. But from all accounts, she doesn't. If she were a truly selfless leader, this is the point she would step aside and stand behind Obama.
A different way of looking at this is that Hillary has transformed Obama, from an idealist to a pragmatist, who is now well-positioned to take on anything the GOP can dish out. Again in a business context, fierce competition provides focus and vision to a firm. And a monopoly, as in the case of McCain, can lead to lethargy. From that context, I do think Obama would be a stronger opponent to McCain now than 3 months ago. That is, if someone tells Hillary that its time now to call off the dogs and stand behind the party. Interesting times are ahead...


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