Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"There's Somethin' Happenin' Here..."

Sometimes you can be historical and lose.

You can have the future working for you, but that leaves you shorthanded where the present is concerned.

Banking on the future, promising a future, may mean a candidate has to wait.

How Feb. 5 plays out in the Democratic primaries remains to be seen and those of us with experience in observing and playing politics know that an exciting, forward-looking campaign will lose to a "machine" every time.

The people who have the machine were in power once, not too long ago. They spread love and money, and learned things about running for president that can only be learned by running for president.

And we know from the New Hampshire primary that venues packed with the young, with a rainbow of outsiders not usually associated with politics, does not always signify victory at the polls.

We know that there are plenty of middle-aged folks whom you don't notice when you walk in the streets, and bureaucrats, and hacks who grind out the serious and unglamorous work of party life, good folks, who back Hillary Clinton for her past achievements and relationship with a marginally successful Democratic administration led by her husband.

Ms. Clinton has won in New Hampshire and Nevada without generating the kind of excitement generated by Obama at American University the other day and other locales across the country.

But as David Brooks assures us in his recent "New York Times" column, "Something fundamental has shifted in the Democratic Party.”

Brooks, a conservative columnist last time we checked, can be expected to toe the emergent post-South Carolina narrative, that Obama Democrats, and even Billary's own supporters, finally got a sense of what the opposition always found so noxious about the Clintons.

He then transitions smoothly into a fine socio-cultural analysis of the Kennedys’ appearance at American U. as, “having to do with the confluence of themes and generations. The Kennedys and Obama hit the same contrasts again and again in their speeches: the high versus the low road; inspiration versus calculation; future versus the past and most of all, service versus selfishness.”

You can read the article if you’d like, or you can guess which candidate carried the banner of the “selfish.”

Back in 2004, when the major networks did not cover the early hours of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Brooks got a paycheck from the Public Broadcasting System to sit-in on the unknown Illinois state senator’s speech.

His personal convictions were swept aside. Brooks observed how unfortunate it was the major networks had missed the Obama speech and it was not overstatement. At that convention two future presidential candidates gave speeches, and one of them just dropped out of the race.

That’s Obama. He is so convincing (most of the time) that even a guy like Brooks, who could wax poetic about w. Bush’s scholarly readings of texts on “Catholic social work” can drop his guard long enough to be, not charmed, but challenged and inspired.

Obama burns so bright even long-damaged goods like Ted Kennedy get a reconsideration.

“The old guy stole the show,” wrote Brooks of Kennedy. He observed that, “After his callow youth, Kennedy came to realize that life would not give him the chance to be president. But life did ask him to be a senator, and he has embraced the role and served that institution with more distinction than anyone else now living - as any of his colleagues, Republican or Democrat, will tell you.”

And those were not his only nice words for the senator from Massachusetts.

Something is changing in this country. Obama may already have unleashed forces of youth, cooperation, and commitment that would make his being president unnecessary.

But by comparison, a fall campaign featuring “Clinton II: The Woman” and John McCain’s “transcendent battle against Islamic fundamentalism” seems like a cheap consolation prize.

We have been lied to, kept in a war we voted to get out of, and seen our patrimony and tax money gone to things important to a certain class of person, rather than to the commonweal.

We deserve to be led by the man who inspired us, who opened the door to a new phase in history.

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