I am so proud of my party and my country right now
It won’t last. Nothing good ever does.
Tomorrow the Dance of Death with the Clintons begins. Tomorrow the RNC starts painting Barack Obama as Something Dangerous™. Tomorrow the Harriet Christians of the world are going to have their little tantrums.
But tonight, just savor this: a man with an African father whose name is Barack Hussein Obama is the Democratic nominee for the office of President of the United States:
A hundred and forty years ago, the Democratic Party was the party of slavery. And today it is the party that is comfortable trusting this nation to the hands of a highly capable black man.
When I think about some of the incidents involving race that have occurred in my lifetime:
Medgar Evers, shot in the back by Byron de la Beckwith on June 12, 1963:
The Birmingham Four — Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins, aged 11 to 14, killed on September 15, 1963, when a bomb went off at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama:
Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner — three civil rights workers, one black, two Jewish, murdered on June 21, 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi for daring to register black people to vote:
Emmett Till, murdered barely two months after I was born for daring to talk to a white woman.
And on and on and on. The murder of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Watts. Rodney King. James Byrd. My lifetime has been littered with the bodies of black Americans who wanted nothing more than to be full citizens of this country — to be able to walk down any street, say hello to any fellow citizen, to be able to hope and dream — even to dream of becoming president.
This month all over the country, young black men and women will graduate from high school; a time for hopes and dreams; a time when the future stretches out in front of you like a long and beautiful road. It’s a road that can lead anywhere; an exhilarating time when the only limit seems to be the horizon. White high schoolers have always been able to feel this way — that there is nothing they can’t do, nothing they can’t be.
Tonight those black men and women can feel that way too.
What about the women? Haven’t they been shot down? Haven’t their hopes and dreams of a woman president been hopelessly dashed?
Despite Wal-Mart having pulled a T-shirt off their store floors a few years ago that read “Someday a woman will be president”, the fact is that someday a woman WILL be president. It probably won’t be Hillary Clinton, who whatever her strengths, is not going to be the one, for any number of reasons. Some of it is the baggage she carries. Some of it is fallout from her ill-advised Iraq War vote. Some of it is a tone-deafness that her flashier husband didn’t have when we knew him. Much of it is the misfortune of running up against the kind of charismatic buzz-saw that comes along once in a generation.
It just happens that way sometimes. Ask the late Adlai Stevenson, who wanted another shot in 1960 but ran against John F. Kennedy. Ask the late Paul Tsongas or Jerry Brown, who had the misfortune of running against Bill Clinton in 1992.
I’ll tell you what wasn’t a reason: sexism.
This isn’t to say that sexism hasn’t figured into this campsign — the ugly confluence of sexism and ageism has been pervasive. The Wicked Witch. Tonya Harding. Alex Forrest. Hillary nutcrackers. Pundits like Chris Matthews put their fear and loathing of women, all poured into this one woman whose personality didn’t protect her from the stereotypes that they used to describe her. But when push came to shove, the VOTERS weren’t sexist. The new voters who poured into the process to work for a man who gave hope to a generation that is going to live in one tough fucking world — they weren’t sexist. Voters like me, who couldn’t forgive her for her lack of repentance of her Iraq War vote, and her Kyl-Lieberman vote; voters who were troubled by her pledge to obliterate Iran, and her affirmation at Yearly Kos last summer that corporate lobbyists are Americans too — our refusal to support her wasn’t out of sexism. It was because of her positions on the issues. For many of us, those votes and statements made her someone we couldn’t trust, not because she’s a woman, but because of a pattern of votes calculated to appeal not to progressive values, but to the neocons and right-wingers that she seems to think are more necessary for electoral success than the Democratic party’s base.
Someday, a woman will be president. And when she makes her victory speech, she will thank Hillary Clinton for paving the road for her. It may not be in my lifetime. It may not be in yours. But it will happen. And THAT it happens is more important than WHEN. Our own little pitiful lifetimes really don’t matter much in the larger scheme of things. Today’s children will see it happen. Or their children will see it happen. And Hillary Clinton has helped pave the way for it to happen. For that, she deserves and receives our thanks.
But tonight is Barack Obama’s moment, no matter that Senator Clinton is still playing coy and seemingly praying for a miracle — or a tragedy, depending on your point of view. Tonight, the son of the man from Kenya and the hippieish mom from Kansas, the guy with the funny name and the inflammatory middle name this blog has appropriated for as long as this amazing run lasts, is going to be the Democratic nominee for the presidency of the United States. All those people pictured above died simply because of the color of their skin — and because they dared to believe that this country could be better.
This is a first step. The big job lies ahead. Barack Obama is, in my opinion, our best hope for healing this country’s relationship with the world — a relationship that has been left in ruins after eight years of a narcissistic, sociopathic president. It’s not going to be easy, and he is going to need ALL of our help. I for one hope he can has the cheezburger of a unified party.
And dammit, I still wonder what Steve Gilliard would have written tonight.
(UPDATE: Because great minds think alike, Will Bunch has more on this theme.