Who Gets the Vineyard?

Is the Island big enough for the Clintons and the Obamas?

The Clintons? The Obamas? Or is this island big enough for both families to vacation here? Several months ago, when it looked like the shark from Jaws was circling the Democratic Party, I would have said “no way.”

I’ve been wondering about this for months now. I find myself writing about it just days after Senator Obama clinched the Democratic Party nomination. By the time this piece runs in August, we may already have an answer. But as of mid-June, I am worried about what might happen. Just look what happened last summer, back when we were all getting along. Things got so tense that The New York Times even noticed. Its reporter described the situation here as “a highly charged political seasondividing old loyalties, testing longtime friendships and causing a few awkward moments at the island’s many dinner parties.” This year, we can only hope for change. There can be no more awkward moments at dinner parties.

So who decides? Should we hold a summit? Toss a coin? Or just give it to the Clintons? After all, they got here first.

Senator Clinton and her family have been vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard since 1993. They love the Vineyard. After their first summer vacation here they sent an open letter to the people of Martha’s Vineyard extolling our hospitality. “We crabbed in Oyster Pond, sailed in the Vineyard Sound and rode horses along the Atlantic Ocean. Our walks along the beach restored our energy as did the naps we stoleI want to thank all the residents for putting up with any inconven-iences our visit may have caused. We appreciate your consideration.” The Clintons understand what we’re all about here.

Last summer Hillary gave a rousing speech to a sold out, adoring crowd at the Tabernacle. By contrast, Senator Obama only showed up for a high-priced private fundraising event. The press wasn’t even allowed in. The Clintons understand the Vineyard. I’m not so sure about the Obamas.

But she lost here. How embarrassing. Hillary did win the Massachusetts primary, but her defeat on the Vineyard was significant. Fifty-five percent of the Island’s Democrats voted for Obama. She only pulled in 40 percent. Ouch.

So what next? Will she return and let bygones be bygones? Aren’t we now working on reconciliation and party unity?

The Obamas reportedly spent a quiet, under the radar, weeklong vacation on the Vineyard last summer. We did appreciate that, but personally, I would have enjoyed an Obama sighting.

So will they be back this summer? I sent an e-mail to his campaign asking just that question. With no response at the time of this writing (okay, truth be told, I only sent in my question an hour ago), I am left to guess. My guess is yes.

For one thing, Caroline Kennedy is here. She too understands what the Vineyard is really about. I’m sure she can give the Obamas a quick tutorial.

Then there’s the money. Why wouldn’t they come? Everyone else does. I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing people running for animal control officer in Eufaula, Alabama, holding fundraisers here.

But perhaps Senator Obama can rightfully claim Martha’s Vineyard as his. He triumphed in all six towns. This seems to be reason enough to welcome him back.

So now I return to my original question, is this Island big enough for both the Clintons and the Obamas?

No doubt we’ll find out soon.