Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's Over

Weekly Wednesday Presidential Politics - 6/11/07

(IC note: This blog has been dormant far too long. Indeed, I haven't even posted here since February, with my "Explaining Limbaugh" column. Therefore, I've decided to run one of my recent blog posts from Presidential Politics for America. Enjoy.)

It's over. History has been made. Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.

Yet, with all of the stories that slowly trickled in last week - the seventeen senate superdelegates, Clyburn, Carter, Clinton ready to concede, Clinton letting go staff, Clinton not conceding, Clinton wanting to meet face to face with Obama, Clinton interested in VP, Obama only interested in offering the VP if Clinton declines - it was easy to forget the big picture.

This was an historic event on several levels.

First, the magnitude of this upset is unparalleled in modern primary politics. Hillary Clinton, a lion in the Senate, with a 25-point lead in 2007 for the Democratic nomination, and with her spouse as the most popular member of the party and perhaps the most popular politician in the country, was beaten by a dark-skinned, mixed-race, first-term U.S. Senator with a Muslim sounding name who was just over two years removed from state politics when he declared for the United States presidency. Read that sentence again.

Second, the story everyone is talking about. For the first time in this country's history, a non-white has been nominated for President by a major political party. As an extension, if Obama wins on November 4th, he will be the first person with at least 50% African heritage to be the President of any country in Western Civilization (Europe, North America, South America).

Third, finally, and most important to me, I have to turn to a Hillary Clinton quote from last night. Who would have thought that it would be Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, who could put forth the quote of the contest? I have been following this primary for 18 months and in her speech last night, Clinton had my favorite line of the primary. Nothing sums up the ground breaking experience of the 2008 Democratic Primary better than a snippet of her simple prose. I know it's not Shakespeare, Jefferson, Glenn Cheney, or Dylan. I know it's clich├ęd. I know it seems obvious looking back on it. But she said it, and she's absolutely right.

"...we saw millions of Americans registering to vote for the first time, raising money for the first time, knocking on doors, making calls, talking to their friends and neighbors, mothers and fathers lifting their little girls and their little boys on to their shoulders and whispering,

"'See, you can be anything you want to be.'"


The crowd erupted, as it should have. Young minorities and young girls who saw the Democratic Primary come down to a woman and a black man must have been inspired. Our society isn't perfect. We haven't torn down all the barriers. We haven't convinced all the racists and misogynists of their archaic and misguided thoughts, and through aesthetic affirmative action, we've even gone too far in the opposite direction at times...

But those young girls and minorities haven't experienced any of that yet. They're new and innocent and untouched by the evils of prejudice and thoughtless malevolence. The most publicized and talked about news event of their young lives had a black man and white woman vying for the nomination of the Democratic Party. I don't think we can yet accurately predict the far-reaching effect this one political event will have on the next generation, but we can hope that the very best was taken from it.

And as we wave good-bye to the last few pre-19th Amendment seniors, as the generation that grew up in pre-Civil Rights slowly fades away, as the memory of the George Wallace south diminishes, and as my generation of Rodney King, OJ Simpson, and affirmative action begins its exit in a few decades, the generation of watching Clinton-Obama with wide eyes and big dreams will take our place. It was Dr. King's dream and it's becoming a reality.

So yes, the Democratic Primary is over, but it might not be the only thing that is. Over is the time where we walk into an election cycle with full confidence that we will see a white man vying against a white man to lead a country that is half female and steadily growing less white. Over is the time where we discount a candidate's viability because of the way they look. Over is the time where a girl or a black child gives up on their dream to hold the highest office in the land because of what they see when they look in the mirror.

It's over.

So I apologize if you checked into Presidential Politics for America this morning and wanted to see me break down numbers (unnecessary) or finish off my Barack Obama Veepstakes (Friday) or preview Obama-McCain (all summer). I just had to take a minute with a wide-angle lens and appreciate what we've experienced. I urge you to do the same.

No comments: