(originally uploaded by Barack Obama)
Jack Turner asks “Where were you last night? Your kids may ask you in 20 years: “How did it feel to experience history?””‘
dnA was in Harlem:
All the Obama volunteers told me how hard it was, even in Harlem, to convince folks that an Obama presidency was possible. Not just because Harlem now lies in the shadow of the Clinton building, but because people in Harlem’s barbershops, restaurants and schools didn’t think a black man could win. The very circumstance of our own lives pushes the possibility past the realm of belief.
But Harlem believed last night. We all believed last night.
One man last night said, “This isn’t just a victory for Harlem. This is a victory for all the Harlems across this nation.”
I’d raise a drink to that.
Oh and…I was wrong. And it feels really good to be wrong.
The rest is black history.
Black history. That speech. That wonderful, magical, almost narcotic speech.
I don’t particularly like Obama, nor agree with his decidedly status quo, neoliberal policies. But, speaking as a person of colour, for one night it was nearly impossible not to get caught up in the sweeping rhetoric, the (illusionary) resonance of boundless hope and national unity.
Many others got swept up as well, as noted by Chris Bowers:
Tonight, Obama won because he did something many campaigns have claimed they would do in the past, but never until now had never actually accomplished: he turned out young voters and new voters in record-smashing numbers. This has long been the holy grail of progressive politics, and until now no one had been able to pull it off. Well, Obama pulled it off. That is a remarkable an historic accomplishment. That is why he won.
The notion that the youth that put Obama over the top is somehow hell-bent on bi-partisanship is about as misguided as the idea that FISA would have an impact in the Presidential campaign (while FISA should have had an impact, it just wasn’t going to happen). Young voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, as voters under 30 broke 60%–38% for Democrats in 2006. The youth of America isn’t navigating a path between the two parties, they are overwhelmingly siding with one party. What they want is change and youth within the party, not an older generation’s status quo. They want a change in America, and a change in the Democratic Party.
Obama represents the change that Democratic youth want, and he does so in a way that neither Clinton nor Edwards could ever hope to match.
Michael Goodwin further examines Obama’s victory–and Clinton’s defeat:
Obama’s smashing victory Thursday night in the Iowa caucuses was more than just history – it was an exclamation point on an improbable quest. The decisive margin anoints him as the clear Democratic front-runner and suddenly, the nomination is within his grasp. If he can capitalize on the moment and sweep New Hampshire next week, he will be in a position to go all the way. Clinton is in trouble, and she knows it. Her flat concession speech, gracious under the circumstances, reflected the devastating facts. Her third-place finish, 9 points behind Obama and a single point behind John Edwards, is irrefutable proof that the aura of invincibility is gone. She is now in a fight she never expected and didn’t want. New Hampshire, which she always counted on, suddenly looms as crucial.
What’s surprising is that the results weren’t surprising. The trend was clear to the naked eye. Ever since the Oct. 30 debate in Philadelphia, where Clinton dodged every tough question, including on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, the vaunted Clinton machine – Bill and Hil and those veteran war-roomers – was running on empty. The tricks that always worked before didn’t work anymore. It was all vapors.
The nostalgia for the ’90s, a move for a restoration of the Clinton presidency, isn’t a persuasive rationale. The flaw was on display in her speech – surrounded by Bill and some of his old aides, she was a tableau of the past, not the future. As she ticked off mind-numbing policy plans as though the presidency is a collection of legislative initiatives, she probably lost a few early votes in New Hampshire, too. Obama gets the essence of the job he is seeking, the idealized version anyway. His victory speech was infectious. His incantation of hope, combined with an eloquent sweep of American history’s celebration of the underdog, is much, much more than a promise of policy change. You can’t imagine her invoking Valley Forge and Selma the way he did.
Her campaign is a campaign. His is a movement.
Thanks to the decisive and unique nature of his victory (which can be pithily summed up as “defying conventional wisdom, black man thumps white establishment candidate in overwhelmingly white state”), Obama now has the Big Mo, or, as publius puts it, an “information cascade on steroids”. If it engulfs New Hampshire and South Carolina, the surge may very well carry Obama all the way to the Democratic nomination–if not the Oval Office.