Like many of you, I stayed up way too late last night thinking that Obama might just take Indiana by a vote or two, and downed a few too many cognacs while I waited. But no matter. Let me add my small voice to the hordes of pundits who, on this bright spring morning (at least here in Boston), see the light at the end of the tunnel--at least that dark tunnel that has been the Democratic primary race. "It's over," Bob Franken declared on MSNBC around 2 am, and no doubt he is right--even if Hillary Clinton might want to spin things out just a little longer. We will probably have a better idea about that as the day goes on.
Unlike many Obama supporters, I have never seen this particular man from Illinois as a savior, even if there is some irony in the possibility that the first Black president would hail from the same state as Abraham Lincoln. As a life-long leftwinger (well, at least during my adult life, as I was for Barry Goldwater as a naive high school junior obsessed with the Communist menace), I don't have any illusions that Obama is anything more than a good liberal from the more leftish wing of the Democratic Party. And as many of my friends know, I strongly believe that the failure of the Democratic Party to deliver on its promises over the past decades is the main reason that Americans have moved politically to the right, supporting candidates like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush--very much against their own best interests, as they seem to be figuring out at long last.
The Clintons, despite Bill's personal charm and charisma, were emblematic of this failure. I am thrilled to see the relegation of Clintonian politics to the dustbin of history, and when I drank those cognacs that was in large part what I was celebrating.
This is also why I have refused to vote for Democratic candidates most of the past 40 years since I became eligible to vote. In 1968, as a first time voter, I cast my ballot for Eldridge Cleaver of the Peace and Freedom Party; I did not vote for president again until 2004, when, partly out of solidarity with my desperate liberal friends--but mostly because I felt that the politics of George Bush had to be seen to be repudiated before we could make any progress in this country--I voted for John Kerry. But the lackluster, hesitant, cowardly Kerry, with everything he had going for him including an already very unpopular war in Iraq, proved incapable of inspiring Americans to vote for him out of anything other than desperation to get rid of Bush--and desperation does not seem to be enough to win elections these days. Inspiration seems to work much better.
That is why Barack Obama is likely to beat McCain when the two finally get to fight mano-a-mano, because he is an inspiring and charismatic candidate who will be going up against an opponent who insists on running on George W. Bush's record--and I say, let him. But to me, this is not really about Obama. It's about what is going on with the American people, and what might be possible at this moment in history. Hillary Clinton, as some pundits say, pulled every trick in the Karl Rove playbook to try to catch up to Obama, and attempted to take full advantage of glitches such as the Reverend Wright affair--the "race" issue, that is--but she failed. Her inability to squeak out more than a 2% victory in Indiana demonstrates this clearly, and if Rush Limbaugh had not urged Republicans to vote for Clinton (the one they were dying to run against) Obama might well have been the squeaker rather than the squeakee.
Could it be that a very significant percentage of Americans are now ready to begin voting and acting in their best interests? That they have learned enough about war and politics during the last 8 years of the disastrous Bush adminstration to see through the bullshit? That they are ready to vote for a Black president not because he is Black--and ready not to vote against him because he is Black--but for the political positions he takes and what he stands for? That Americans will now be more sympathetic to campaigns for social and economic justice, that they will think two, three, or four times before being suckered into another war against another alleged "enemy"? Maybe, maybe not. But an Obama victory would provide a window of opportunity that any social activist worth his or her salt should be able to drive a truck through. Let's buckle our seatbelts and get back in the drivers' seat.