There will be plenty of time to chart Barack Obama's attempt to navigate a course between the exigencies of the old politics and the promise of the new, between yesterday and tomorrow, youth and experience, black and white. For now, take a moment to consider the mind-bending improbability of what just happened.Robinson goes on to recount all the bad parts of our history and the sordid tales of idiots during the primary season. I am willing to grant that Robinson is probably right, we are not the color blind society we may hope to be or think we are, but we are a damn sight better than we used to be.
A young, black, first-term senator -- a man whose father was from Kenya, whose mother was from Kansas and whose name sounds as if it might have come from the roster of Guantanamo detainees -- has won a marathon of primaries and caucuses to become the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. To reach this point, he had to do more than outduel the party's most powerful and resourceful political machine. He also had to defy, and ultimately defeat, 389 years of history.
But Robinson glosses over Obama's modern achievement, leaving aside all the historical race based stuff. Robinson gives it short shrift:
A young, black, first-term senator -- a man whose father was from Kenya, whose mother was from Kansas and whose name sounds as if it might have come from the roster of Guantanamo detainees -- has won a marathon of primaries and caucuses to become the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. To reach this point, he had to do more than outduel the party's most powerful and resourceful political machine.These sentences in an of themselves are worthy of a review.
I don't think there has ever been a time when a major party in this country has nominated anyone so ill-experienced as Obama to a candidate for the White House. Whether this is a function of the overwhelming desire of many voters to change the tone in Washington, or that Obama clearly doesn't represent an entrenched Washington or national political elite (although that may be subject to debate), it is clear that there is some sort of message in the offing, we just have to glean it.
He has, by every reasonable measure, ran the most disciplined and successful campaign of the past twenty years. His fundraising machine has triumphed in a way that Hillary Clinton could only dream of. His staff kept their eyes on the prize and even in states where was was beaten handily, they did not forget (as Hillary's camp clearly did) that the goal is the nomination and that means delegates. In the Democratic realm, you win delegates even when you lose states. That this says a great deal about the smarts of his political team is without question, whether those smarts translate into a successful general election campaign is another story.
But Obama took on and defeated what may have been the best national political machine of our generation. The Clinton's had a solid lock on the Democratic party as late as two years ago. Cracks appeared in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq war, but it looked like Hillary Clinton could hold it together to take the White House. Not only did Obama beat the Clinton Machine, he ground it into the dust by having big ideas and a focus on the fact that the little things do matter, including little donations. This time last year, the Democratic elite had all but crowned Hillary Clinton.
Not only that, but it looks like Obama has successfully resisted the pressure from the Clinton camp to name Hillary Clinton to the ticket. So it looks as though Obama has slayed the Clinton Dragon once and for all.
What will be interesting is what Obama has to say after all this is said and done. My guess, at least in part, is that he may have originally gotten into the race just to give Hillary a little competition, to bloody her a bit in order to make a stronger candidate and to maybe raise his profile a little for a future bid. I would be shocked if anyone in his camp thought, at the beginning, that they had a snowball's chance in hell to win the nomination. To be sure, by November 2007, they may have thought differently, but not when he first started.
Obama has gone from relative unknown to nominee in a little over 18 months. It is phenomenal and likely detrimental to the nation as a whole. But his meteoric rise is a thing to behold. All of this is in spite of his heritage. It takes a special candidate to do what he has done, and none of it has anything particular related to his race, just the fact that he did it is impressive enough.