Do You Feel the Glow?

New York Times columnist David Brooks calls Barack Obama’s Iowa victory an earthquake. Now I’m for anyone willing to put himself between the White House and the Clintons, but Brooks’ pious interpretation of Obama’s win is way over-the-top:

Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucuses. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel
moved by this. An African-American man wins a closely fought campaign in a pivotal state. He beats two strong opponents, including the mighty Clinton machine. He does it in a system that favors rural voters. He does it by getting young voters to come out to the caucuses.

This is a huge moment. It’s one of those times when a movement that seemed ethereal and idealistic became a reality and took on political substance.

Iowa won’t settle the race, but the rest of the primary season is going to be colored by the glow of this result. Whatever their political affiliations, Americans are going to feel good about the Obama victory, which is a story of youth, possibility and unity through diversity — the primordial themes of the American experience.

And Americans are not going to want to see this stopped. When an African-American man is leading a juggernaut to the White House, do you want to be the one to stand up and say No? [Emphasis added, and does that mean the Republicans must concede the election or be called racist if Obama wins the nomination?]

Obama has achieved something remarkable. At first blush, his speeches are abstract, secular sermons of personal uplift — filled with disquisitions on the nature of hope and the contours of change.

He talks about erasing old categories like red and blue (and implicitly, black and white) and replacing them with new categories, of which the most important are new and old. He seems at first more preoccupied with changing thinking than changing legislation.

Yet over the course of his speeches and over the course of this campaign, he has persuaded many Iowans that there is substance here as well. He built a great organization and produced a tangible victory.

He’s made Hillary Clinton, with her wonkish, pragmatic approach to politics, seem uninspired. He’s made John Edwards, with his angry cries that “corporate greed is killing your children’s future,” seem old-fashioned. Edwards’s political career is probably over.

Obama is changing the tone of American liberalism, and maybe American politics, too.

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to gag.

A relatively small group of mostly white folks in an overwhelmingly “white” state voted for a black man. And this is an “earthquake.” As I understand it, the registered Democrats in Iowa are on the far left of a Democratic Party which since 1972 ( and particularly since the Iraq War) is an entirely left-wing, pacifist organization.

Brooks would have us believe that the Iowa result shows that we have moved “beyond race” to an new era in which a man is judged, in Martin Luther King’s words, by the content of his character rather than his race.

In fact, it proves the opposite: the Democrats who voted for Obama more than likely voted for him because of his race. Does anyone really believe that Obama would be running for president if it weren’t for his race?

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