It’s not just that the Democrats will nominate the first African-American person to be president, or that Senator Obama put down Senator Clinton’s race-baiting campaign (both links via bjkeefe’s "Racial Politics") in Midwest states. Both of these remarkable feats are just the aftershocks of a larger dynamic:
MR. RUSSERT: But, Gerry and John, we’re going to have big difference on the big issues. John McCain will say, "We’re going to stay in Iraq"; Barack Obama say, "Get out." Barack Obama will say, "Roll back the Bush tax cuts on the top income earners"; John McCain will say, "Keep it going." John McCain will say, "No national healthcare as such"; Barack Obama will say, "national healthcare." Every issue, people are going to have to make a big choice, a big decision. John McCain will say, "No conversations with Iran, period"; Obama will say, "We’ll talk to our adversaries." Big differences.
MR. SEIB: Oh, absolutely. You know, I spent some time at Obama headquarters on Friday and that was a lot of the discussion there. You know, people don’t realize yet, there’s going to be real policy debate in this campaign. This is about to become a real divide between two candidates of different views. Healthcare, I think, is the best example. And in the Hamas episode, which we were just discussing, there is yet another element that was in there, embedded in there, that you didn’t mention. We’ve seen in our Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling all year, the one area where Republicans can still claim an advantage is national security and military affairs. The McCain people are going to go at that time and time again, and that’s why John McCain jumped on the Hamas statement so quickly.
Come September, Americans might actually have to consider very divergent platforms on prominent issues, like health care reform and the Iraq War. The next administration’s initiatives on economic issues, like fiscal policy, pensions, and trade, will affect whether Americans divide into coalitions, on one hand, based around haves and have-not’s, color and white, pluralistic and mainstream, or conceivably two post-realignment parties haggling over minor tactical policies.
The only question is whether the Democratic and Republican nominees will spend September flooding the airwaves with negative ads, or debates.