I just watched the Obama victory speech. Commentary below the embedded content.
Damn, that man can talk! When he started with, “You know, they said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high.” my gods, he brought tears to my eyes. I’m not registered Democrat, but if I were, I’d vote for him.
A few days before Christmas, I went to Cody’s Books in Berkeley and there were some older white women selling hats and scarves that they’d knit. They were raising money for Obama. Even in Berkeley, this is unusual. I stopped to talk to them and asked them why they were voting for him. They couldn’t really say. One of them talked about how she felt after his speech at the Democratic Convention 4 years ago. She said she thought, “why aren’t we running him?!” Which is exactly what I thought at the time.
It’s hard to immediately pin down what’s so completely compelling about Obama. My girlfriend says he has Jedi mind powers. He has an emotional appeal more than a logical one. But I think the logical one is there. Even though he’s not the most left candidate. That title belongs to the (now Nader-esque) Kucinich or maybe Edwards, who lost last time and who looked silly debating Cheney.
Obama is compelling because he is the 21st century. We’re supposed to have flying cars and wear silver clothes and all be fabulously wealthy. This is what we were promised in the Jettsons. But instead we got terrorist attacks and fear and war and poverty and politicians apparently nostalgic for the 19th century. We got leaders who seemed to think the centuries tick backwards instead of forwards.
Obama instead invokes the struggles of the past, especially the civil rights struggles and paints himself as the next logical step in that progression. He is forwards where Bush was backwards. There were those who -trapped in the past – said this day would never come. But it has come. The future is now.
And as he talks about hope and universal healthcare and employing scientists to solve problems, he’s talking about the shiny future that we wanted. The one where we can watch videos on our laptops and not have to worry about facing foreclosure because our kid got sick.
[Y]ears from now, when we’ve made the changes we believe in, when more families can afford to see a doctor, when our children — when Malia and Sasha and your children inherit a planet that’s a little cleaner and safer, when the world sees America differently, and America sees itself as a nation less divided and more united, you’ll be able to look back with pride and say that this was the moment when it all began.
I want a flying (carbon neutral) car. I want scientists making the world a better place. I want the mythology of America, the one where anybody of nay race can be president, to be true. I want the mythology of America, the one where we do good things in the world, to be true. I want the mythology of America, the one where we work hard and it pays off and things get better, to be true. Not only is Obama promising all that, he is all that. The first black man to win a primary caucus. He embodies all of our positive mythology and our hopes for the future. He is reaching out and grabbing a mantle that we all want somebody to seize, like Arthur drawing Excalibur from a rock.
That’s his emotional appeal. That’s more than a Jedi mind trick, that’s a combination of everything that can be good that politicians say.
I don’t know how he is from a policy wonk perspective. In some sense, it doesn’t matter as much. Nobody implements that platform that they campaign on this early. If all he has now are broad, general ideas, that’s all he needs now. What he can actually implement and what he will do come from a few factors including how willing congress is to work with him and how willing he is to respond to constituents. His record is good on both counts.
He’ll be Clinton-esque, like Bill was. He’ll say that he feels our pain and we’ll believe him. He’ll triangulate and take credit for popular but bad conservative ideas. He’ll bomb Kosovo, but we’ll think he meant well. I never thought I’d miss Bill Clinton, but I do. And this guy is the closest thing to that that we’ve got. And when he says that if he wins, it will be profoundly huge and wonderful for America, he’s right. It will be profoundly huge. It will make some of our most noble mythology become prophesy. We’ll be as good as we said we were.
This is a guy who can win and should win. Somebody trying to bring us forwards. I want my flying cars. I want Obama in 2008.