The next phase Well, we're not yet sure what Hillary will be doing. Today, she's supposedly going to be conceding the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama, and letting us know if she's really interested in running for vice-president. (I rather fancy John Edwards as VP, but we'll see.)
Obama was kind and gracious towards her in his speech last night, and we're expecting much the same from Hillary.
It's been interesting, even from our outsiders' position, watching the contest between the two Democrats, either of whom, I think, would make a good fist of the job. From six months ago, when we watched the Iowa caucus on telly and marvelled (and scratched our heads) at the complexity of the electoral system here, we've been glued to the TV almost daily as state after state held primaries and caucuses and the whole fascinating race gathered momentum.
There was a great sense of excitement on the TV last night — at least on the station we were watching — as commentators raved about the historic significance of Obama's victory, not just in the light of his being a young black guy from the south side of Chicago, but also because of the reflected glory this would cast over the whole of the US, clearly now to be seen as a country — the only country — in which absolutely anyone can achieve his or her goals and aspirations.
And it is hard to believe that it's been only 40-odd years since the Civil Rights Movement focused world attention on the country's institutionalised racism.
How must Hillary be feeling? Though she ended up being behind in delegates, she still got more of the popular vote. She had such a great chance; she's very smart and a good fighter, with all the right experience. And you got Bill as a bonus! Free! Had she won the nomination, this, too, would have been full of historic significance: the first woman headed for the White House.
But I reckon she blew it on a few occasions. She could never recover from the fact that, before the war started, she voted with the government to invade Iraq. That was a fatal flaw, a particularly irksome memory when listening to her explaining that one of her first jobs in the White House would be to get the troops out of Iraq, starting just 60 days after she took office.
And while Obama won people over with his rhetoric, his cool appeal to the working man and woman, and his moving speeches, Hillary was prone to shrillness, and gradually lost any feminist edge she might once have had by reinventing herself as a sort of female version of the Washington bully she claimed she wanted out of the capital. Testicular fortitude? Not a term a feminist, even a politically ambitious one, should aspire to.
I also must say that it's been a real shock seeing how involved in all of this the Church has been. Pastors, priests, prayerbooks — they all get a guernsey. In Australia, any radical cleric with half a brain and an opinion on anything more profound than 'What hymn for next Sunday?' would be shot down in flames for daring to stick his head over the church parapet and speak out on any political subject. Newspaper headlines, leaders and letter pages would scream: 'Keep religion out of politics'. But not here.
So after months of great debates, articulate campaigning and rousing speeches, we're facing the next few months with a very different sort of contest: between John McCain and Barack Obama for the Big One. Is John McCain — really? — the very best the Republicans could muster? I mean, any of you outside the US who are interested in this, go to YouTube and listen to McCain talk. You will blush for him. His speech last night, the first, really, of this new stage of the contest, was just dreadful. Silly, shallow, embarrassing.
That's enough from me. Sorry for butting in.