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The Great Road Picture

Next Friday, the Democratic Party, torn into a million real pieces by a divisive, nasty primary campaign, will begin not only the process of self-healing, but of redirecting its focus solely on taking the White House after eight years of Republican control.

That’s when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and and Sen. Barack Obama–the presumed Democratic nominee–will make their first appearance together since she conceded the narrowly, razor-thin race and put away her own presidential ambitions, at least for now. Many had wondered during the last days of the campaign, as members of her staff squabbled over uncounted votes and word spread that she might take her fight to the convention floor, how she would involve herself in the general election should Obama prevail. Would she quietly retreat to an undisclosed location? Would she throw herself into Senate work? Would she encourage supporters not to support Obama unless she were on the ticket?

All these scenarios must have been nightmarish for Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, who’s taken his share of lumps during this battle. One could feel a palpable sense of relief among party elders when it was announced this morning that the two would campaign together next Friday — in what’s likely to involve a crush of reporters — including me — and photographers, all trying to get the ideal description or shot of these once-bitter rivals together.

By all accounts, this will not be for show. As recently as yesterday, according to one major Clinton supporter, in a conference call with several high profile donors, Clinton encouraged all of them to give the most they could to the Obma campaign, without any sentence that ended with "depending on his running mate." Likewise, last Monday after nearly all the 20,000 people in attendance at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena booed the mention of Clinton during Obama’s introduction by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Obama took to the stage and publicly scolded them for doing so while lauding everything Clinton had done during the race and in her career.

Many, of course, will view this as a trial run for what we’ve grown to call the Democratic Party dream ticket. We don’t know. But what’s clear is the sign Clinton is giving to her damn powerful coalition of working-class men, women and Latinos. By appearing with Obama, by working with the campaign, Clinton’s telling those who supported and will continue to support her, that this is the man you want as president at this moment in history.

How the two will visually communicate their renewed sense of joint-purpose will surely be discussed again and again as the day draws closer. For the record, we recommend the fist-bump.

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