After last week’s Indiana and North Carolina primaries, Obama has all but won the nomination — but democracy has been the real winner of the process. According to the Associated Press, 3.5 million newly registered voters appeared during the 2008 primaries, including unusually large numbers of women and African Americans. Turnout reached historic highs in many Democratic primaries; indeed, more Democrats turned out this week in both North Carolina and Indiana than voted for Sen. John F. Kerry in those states in 2004. Both Clinton and Obama raised more money during a single month than most candidates in previous elections raised during the entire primary season. Moreover, the bulk of that money came from small donors; in fact, 1.5 million individuals, an unprecedented number, contributed to the Obama campaign. By every measure of individual interest in politics, this campaign has grabbed the public’s attention.
Recent elections have been marked by high levels of voter ignorance, low turnout, polarization between the parties and media coverage as broad as it was shallow. But within the Democratic Party this time, we have been witnessing the exact opposite: engagement and excitement. Pundits worry that the long race hurt the Democrats’ chances in the fall, but it’s hard to share their gloom when the whole exercise has been so good for our civic health.
– Alan Wolfe, The Race’s Real Winner