Since it's all going to become a flurry of spin, polls, and theorizing by tonight, I hope any fellow Obamaniacs wanting to bask a little bit in the eye of the storm will take a moment to listen to this song, recorded by a co-worker of mine, singer Maddy Wyatt. She, the song, and Barack, are all awesome.
So okay, so obviously everyone's watching the results of the New Hampshire primary pretty closely, and even the casual reader of the 2log is no doubt aware that we're hoping to keep tapping our toes to some Baracknroll.
But in all the non-stop chatter about momentum, the meaning of the word "change," and the politics of tears, Time's Joe Klein reminds us that Obama isn't all talk when he touts his international life experience as a foreign policy advantage. He reports here that throughout the pre-Iowa rush and the post-Iowa explosion of interest in his campaign, Obama has been on the phone to Kenya almost daily in an attempt to help quell the violence that's been raging there. That fits my definition of a president any day.
Let's remember that before the media blew this thing way out of proportion, Obama was never supposed to win New Hampshire. Every poll all year had him tied at best, and the inflated numbers leading up to yesterday led to a ridiculous over-amplification of the significance of Obama's Iowa victory. There were stories about how the Obama-McCain race will look in November. There were stories about Clinton dropping out of the race to preserve the "Clinton brand."
What?! It's damn January! Barack Obama is a first-term senator from Illinois vying to become the nation's first black president! It's going to take more than an upset victory in the cornbelt to put him in the White House! Fellow Obamaniacs: we knew this! We are not behind Main Man because we think he's a shoo-in. We're behind him because we know that, given the opportunity, he can knock the system on its ass and bring about political change the likes of which we've never seen. We're behind him because he combines specific, progressive policies with rafter-rattling rhetoric of hope. We're behind him because he believes we are ready to make him the steward of our opportunity to heal.
We are not behind him because polling over a 2 day period suddenly called him the 10-point favorite. Obama will not be the 10-point favorite at any point from now until February 5th, barring Hillary Clinton's capture by space aliens. Hillary Clinton knows how to run for president. And she's not going to stop knowing how. Reports of her death were greatly exaggerated. Barack Obama knows how to inspire, and happens to be running for president. We should not be disheartened by the results from New Hampshire, or believe that he has somehow come up short. Thus far, in a nomination race that was supposed to be Clinton's all the way, Obama has defeated her in Iowa and finished a whisper behind her in New Hampshire, crushing her in several key demographics along the way. He has made a race out of what was supposed to be a coronation, and his chances of knocking Hillary out of the box are as good as ever. He picked up the endorsement of the Nevada SEIU late last night, and South Carolina is looking good. It's my personal prediction that he's got an endorsement from Al Gore up his sleeve to roll out just before February 5th.
O-Town was a flash in the pan. Obamamania is the real deal. Onward!
UPDATE: For anyone who didn't see it, here's a video of Obama's "concession" speech. Does this look like a someone who's down for the count to you?
I didn't realize this, but apparently the origins of Bill Clinton's reputation as our "first black president" come from a 1998 New Yorker column by Toni Morrison (who's Song of Solomon should, in my opinion, be read by everyone, regardless of race or intelligence level). It's interesting to read for the context it provides on Clinton's current reputation as a fighter in favor of the black community. Morrison is not arguing in favor of Clinton as an advocate for African-American interests, but rather aptly noting that he is one of the first white men to be unfairly bullied and harassed in a manner similar to the ways in which blacks have been treated for years.
Given Morrison's endorsement of Barack Obama today, it's interesting to compare Morrison's substantive statements about both Clinton in Obama in the respective pieces. The 1998 column is more of a reflection on what the Lewinsky scandal means for our national identity than any sort of referendum on Clinton as an individual, but she does tuck this clever observation into her piece:
"Whatever the media promote and the chorus chants, whatever dapples dinner tables, this is not a mundane story of sex, lies, and videotape. The real story is none of these. Not adultery, or high crimes. Nor is it even the story of a brilliant President naive enough to believe, along with the rest of the citizenry, that there were lines one's enemies would not cross, lengths to which they would not go--a profound, perhaps irrevocable, error in judgment."
When she goes on to characterize Clinton as the nation's "first black president," she does not do so in terms of adulation or hopes that Clinton will rally any sort of wave of sympathy for the plight of African-Americans. This excerpt, wherein she finds him guilty of "a profound, perhaps irrevocable, error in judgement" is her only observation about Clinton as leader.
Compare that with her endorsement of Obama:
"In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom.
"Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.
"There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time."
Given all the tumult regarding race in recent weeks, I bring this up because it sheds some light on the actual context in which the Clintons are supposedly risking their "race cred." The Morrison column is obviously not the only example of the Clinton legacy intertwining with issues of race, but it's easy to assume that Clinton's reputation as a standard-bearer for relations between the White House and the black community is better earned than it would seem to be. And here is the arguable culprit in creating this flawed impression, declaring race to be far from the deciding factor in her choice.
As usual, the story is much more complicated upon closer examination.
A few months ago the Catholics stole my Aviator sunglasses. It was a slick move, and I give them all due credit for it; I was serving as Best Man in a wedding, and I think Ol' Father Workman slipped into the groomsmen's holding pen and nabbed my shades whilst we groomsfellows were snapping photos. I have come to terms with the loss on the grounds that I can only assume Father Workman is using my sunglasses to do God's work in sunny regions of the world where he may otherwise have feared to tread, lest he suffer from overexposure to UV rays.
These sunglasses were, however, special to me for sentimental reasons, and I have resisted the urge to replace them numerous times in the ensuing months only because the exorbitant price charged by most Ray-Ban merchants in the fair city of New York is a notch prohibitive given the current Income Situation.
That is, until the Limes gave the Dingman a little old bump-up in the ol' salarizz, if you ya know what I'm sayin' to ya. Nothing ridiculous, but it is conceivable that, at the end of this month, there may be a little bit of room in the budget. That situation alone sets the dome a-twirlin' with acquisition possibilities. Such ruminations are kicked into overdrive, however, when I get an unsolicited e-mail from Sunglass Hut informing me of certain Valentine's Day Sales Events which would render a new set of shades well within the boundaries of the Affordability Matrix.
This is a monumental choice with lasting implications for my future. It will be much harder than the next choice I have to make, which will not occur until a week from today.
It occurred to me this weekend that not only do I have at least one breathless, effusive conversation about Main Man every day, but that the frenetic, wide-eyed wonderment of those conversations stands in stark contrast to the same conversations I had with friends leading up to the 2004 election.
I'd be interested to hear if this was the same for others, but I remember the basic tone of those conversations about John Kerry running basically along the lines of, "Dear Lord, please do not let John Kerry fuck this up." Which, or course, he did. But even when we believed in him, we were crossing our fingers and straining the limits of our willpower to believe that Kerry would pull out a 51-49% squincher, ensuring, at most, a narrow moral victory.
Our hopes are different this year. Not only do we dream bigger, we dream with a swagger and a confidence that is based on bona-fide primary results and reified by the very establishment which could not deliver us from our fears 4 years ago. Hillary Clinton is running as a competent John Kerry. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has somehow tapped into what Michael Chabon has called our own belief in our "truer...better nature." Obama bests McCain (for now) in head-to-head polls because Obama calls us to be Americans rather than Democrats, and invites Republicans and independents (except Joe Lieberfuck) to feel like Americans again, rather than the soiled and sullied shackles of the much-abused term "patriot."
John Kerry lost by being pragmatic to a fault. He ruined what seemed like our last, best chance to administer a pinch to the national nightmare of Bush and Iraq. His was the pinch of a 2% majority. Obama offers a tidal wave of reinvented civic enlightenment, and the only thing preventing him from realizing our dreams for him is us. America, please, please do not fuck this up.