Dear Senator Obama and Senator Clinton,
I just returned from Great Britain, where the question on everyone's lips, from library ladies to a reporter from the South China Morning Post was, "Will Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama make peace and form a winning ticket? Can't you talk sense to them?"
I can't, of course, since I don't have either of your ears.
But the whole world is watching, and worrying, about the outcome of this election. Tom Daschle may scoff on Meet the Press, saying that a ticket headed by Mrs. Clinton with a vice-presidential berth for Barack Obama is ludicrous -- why should the guy who's winning play second fiddle to the woman who's playing catch-up?
Why should anyone make a sacrifice for the good of his country, and by extension, its allies in the world?
Who would do such a thing?
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had an embattled friendship, a respect for each other tempered by a healthy skepticism. They lived long lives as opponents and comrades and constant correspondents: Their rivalry extended until they drew their last breaths. They died, a few hours apart, on July 4, 1826. The legend is that among Jefferson's last words were these: "Adams still lives."
Although John Adams was not a well-liked man (he admitted himself that he was seen as "obnoxious") it was he who framed and wrote much of the Declaration of Independence -- although he gave most of the credit for it to Thomas Jefferson, universally remembered by history as its author.
In his turn, Jefferson called Adams the "Colossus of Independence," the true force for the formation of the United States.
The first vice president of the United States, Adams grumbled to his wife that his was the "most unimportant position human ever made." Yet as president of the Senate, he cast a near-record number of influential tie-breaking votes, and was so active in his role that opponents sought to limit it.
In 1796, Adams was elected president, and Thomas Jefferson vice president. Although they belonged to different political parties, Jefferson won the second-greatest number of votes. Tradition then required that these two opponents and friends work together toward a common good in a time of foreign policy unrest, when immigration and political dissidence were serious threats to peace.
And they did this.
Is any of this sounding at all familiar?
Adams and Jefferson recognized what Benjamin Franklin said when the Declaration was signed -- that all people of goodwill needed to hang together, or they would assuredly hang separately.
Now is the time for that same sacrifice and that same long view. It's bad politics but perhaps good government.
Perhaps it is ludicrous for you, Senator Obama, to wait for your time for four years, for eight years. Perhaps it is time for Mrs. Clinton to quit the field gracefully. She is not so charismatic as you, nor so adored. She is smart and she is wise. She is the Adams to your fiery Jefferson. She seems to know that. She seems also to know that neither of you can win separately, but that together you can do more than win. You can not only make history (history -- bad history -- is being made every day) but change it.
Do you think her wish to head the ticket is cynical because she's in a fix? I don't. You're in a fix too. Neither of you has this sewed up.
Mabye Senator Clinton, you need to recognize that being the first woman to be vice president of the United States is no trivial thing -- that in this position, you can do what you could not do as First Lady.
Maybe you both need to sit in a room and not be allowed to come out or eat until you both recognize that.
In Great Britain, I met native Brits and guests and guest workers from Thailand and Hong Kong and Italy and Kosovo and the Ivory Coast.
And every single one of them asked me about you. They asked, "Will they sort it out?" I didn't know what to say.
But the world needs them, those editors and professors and taxi drivers and chefs argued. Despite the downward dog dollar, the cruel muddle of the sort-of war and the wacky messes of education, health care and education, the world needs them to take the reins.
Of course, in Great Britain, they have their own problems with race and gender. But they're not the same ones as our own. They have a long tradition of women in power and influence. They don't see Mrs. Clinton's desire to be president as cynical or outlandish but as practical.
They don't find the name "Hussein" strange. Many of their physicians and colleagues have that given name. They don't see people of color as people with guns. While thier National Health doesn't work like a Swiss watch, it does work. They honestly don't understand why, as one man put it to me, we are such "stubborn cowboys," who know perfectly well who our two leaders for the next generation should be but continue to "spat" over it.
I'm not a political savant, like Tom Daschle or .. Rosie O' Donnell.
I'm just a woman from Chicago -- like you, Senator Obama, like you, Senator Clinton. I'm a hereditary Cubs fan who worries every day about the cost of my health insurance and the absurdity of trying to put seven kids through college.
I think I'm a patriot, who can see a mess and feel no temptation to call it a beach picnic. I can see a president who's effectively hung up his spurs with ten months left in office and with young Americans dying every day in Iraq and wonder who turned on the funny gas in the Oval Office.
And so, Senators, I have to ask you, how deep is your love for this country? Is it greater than the fire in your belly? Does what may seem like a defeat at the beginning of the day have the hope of emerging really as a victory not only for you and your Democratic opponent, but for ... you know, we the people?
I know you don't have much time for light reading.
But if you see this, you might note that it's written with sincere hope and sincere fear. It truly is almost too late. You've both been quoted as saying, "We will win." And I know that you meant we, the people -- not the two of you, together. Many of us kind of think that this boils down to the same thing. And if it boils down to something else, something like the slow slide to self-destruction the Democratic party managed eight years ago -- with some help from the dark hijinks of voting machines in places that couldn't quite get it worked out -- I won't be called to answer for it. And neither will Tom Daschle.
If you're truly doing this for us, it's time to fish or cut bait.
Do you want generations to come to regard you as they regarded Adams and Jefferson, people of nimble intellect and vision who sometimes had to put their love for the ideal that united the states of American before their own considerable talents and egos? Even when they were sure they could do more if they had sole custody of the keys?
We tell our children that pride is essential, but also that pride goes before a fall. We tell our children that pride walks with humility. Ask anyone you trust. They'll say that the energy you give to fighting each other must be turned to fighting together.
At the very least, it will demonstrate to the world we aren't really as arrogant and silly as we seem.
We've run out of ways to explain what doesn't make sense.
Causes Jacquelyn Mitchard Supports
National MS Society, Women Against MS, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, One Writer's Place