OK, hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the deal on Obama. He is not only consistently right on the issues, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also inspiring and uplifting. The significance of Iowa is that the reality of his candidacy is even more exciting than the potential of it. Yes, Democrats generally also won and that’s an entirely appropriate conversation already begun elsewhere here. This is the kind of candidate comes along only once in a generation. Even Andrew Sullivan likes him! There is hope, after all.
Sullivan said this last month:
ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â€finallyÃ¢â‚¬â€past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future. But it is only when you take several large steps back into the long past that the full logic of an Obama presidency stares directlyÃ¢â‚¬â€and uncomfortablyÃ¢â‚¬â€at you.
At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a warÃ¢â‚¬â€not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a moÃ‚Âmentum that will propel the occupation into the next decadeÃ¢â‚¬â€but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about warÃ¢â‚¬â€and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â€and Obama aloneÃ¢â‚¬â€offers the possibility of a truce.
After Iowa, David Brooks had this to say:
Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucuses. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d have to have a heart of stone not to feel moved by this. An African-American man wins a closely fought campaign in a pivotal state. He beats two strong opponents, including the mighty Clinton machine. He does it in a system that favors rural voters. He does it by getting young voters to come out to the caucuses.
This is a huge moment. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of those times when a movement that seemed ethereal and idealistic became a reality and took on political substance.
And Americans are not going to want to see this stopped. When an African-American man is leading a juggernaut to the White House, do you want to be the one to stand up and say No?
Neither of these guys make a habit of paying compliments to Democrats or liberals, for that matter.
Thursday night in Iowa, Obama outranked the competition among almost every category of voter. Women were 57% of caucus attendees. He got 35% of them, besting HRC’s 30% and Edwards with 23%. Democrats (78% of attendees) he scored 32%. Republicans (3%), 44%. Independents (20%), 41%. He scored at the top with people of all income levels, first-time attendees, and those who self-identify as moderate, somewhat liberal or very liberal. People whose main concern was Economy, War in Iraq, Health Care – all went to Obama.
Friday on different broadcasts Tony Blankley (Washington Times, Heritage Foundation and former Gingrich staffer) and Dan Balz (Washington Post) both said New Hampshire bodes well for Obama.
So, now, what’s causing all the stir? It can’t be merely his radiant good looks. There are others in the race who also fit that. Is it his youth? Thursday night both parties pushed their youngest candidates to the top. But somehow that doesn’t quite ring true, either.
A large part of it has to do with how he thinks. I will stipulate that there are many people, myself included, who think “The Audacity of Hope” is worth reading but also that there are those who consider it a screed. This is a paragraph from page 116:
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never been entirely comfortable with the term Ã¢â‚¬Å“special interests,Ã¢â‚¬Â which lumps together Exxon Mobil and bricklayers, the pharmaceutical lobby and parents of special-ed kids. Most political scientists would probably disagree with me, but to my mind, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a difference between a corporate lobby whose clout is based on money alone, and a group of like-minded individuals Ã¢â‚¬â€œ whether they be textile workers , gun aficionados, veterans, or family farmers Ã¢â‚¬â€œ coming together to promote their interests, between those who use their economic power to magnify their political influence far beyond what their numbers might justify, and those who are simply seeking to pool their votes to sway their representatives. The former subvert the very idea of democracy. The latter are its essence.
Frankly, I think this is the most articulate description of special interests I’ve seen anywhere. And it does give some insight into how he thinks.
Remember a few years ago there was a spate of Death Row inmates being exonerated in Illinois due to faulty trials, confessions, or evidence? State Senator Obama thought it valuable to video tape the interrogations and confessions of suspects in all capital cases. He was told introducing legislation to accomplish this would be dead on arrival. So he gathered together everyone with skin in the game and sat them down to work it out. Took a few months for them to craft a compromise that satisfied his original intent and allowed everyone to sign on. The bill that evolved from those discussions was signed into law – first in the nation. True, this process won’t work every time in every situation but it is a good place to start. On an issue so divisive as the death penalty, it did work. It’s worth using again.
This way of thinking isn’t altogether new, but it appears from past performance that it is new to the politicians we’re familiar with. There’s that one candidate who says, “I’ve been fighting the right-wing attack machine so long, I know how to beat them.” I’d rather have someone like Obama who would work to win them over. And that’s not such a pipe dream. Obama has managed to earn some measure of respect from Sullivan, Brooks, and Blankley. And they’re just the ones on the right.This is absolutely unheard of.
One night in Iowa does not constitute a trend. So we’ll all be watching the Granite State on Tuesday – each of us with our fingers crossed. We’ll have lots to talk about at Drinking Liberally on Thursday. The elements that put Obama in front in Iowa also apply in New Hampshire but four days is a near-eternity in politics especially if there’s a debate in the middle. I must add that I will support the eventual Democratic nominee; I just want it to be Obama.
In case you missed it, here are Obama’s remarks from Iowa
In the end, it’s more than his successful legislative history. It’s more than his ability to bring people together for the common good. It’s more than honesty. It’s more than openness. It’s more than being right on the issues. It’s more than the kind of change he represents. It’s also how he makes us feel – about ourselves and each other:
Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America – there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.