Can He Win?

January 6, 2008

It’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the past several days, and I’m sure that all through the country undecided Democrats are asking themselves the same thing.  It’s not New Hampshire we’re wondering about, or South Carolina, or Florida.  It’s not even the nomination.  Can Barack Obama win in November?  That’s what I’m trying to figure out after his victory in Iowa the other night.  And as I say, I know I’m not the only one.

Not long ago — a week maybe — I didn’t think so.  The son of a white woman and a Kenyan man; a man with an Arabic name; a politician with relatively little traditional political experience.  It was hard to see how he could win a general election.  But I also didn’t think he could win in Iowa, and didn’t think he’d be so competitive in New Hampshire.  And it occurs to me that anyone who won’t vote for him because of his race or his background probably won’t vote for Clinton or Edwards, either.

More to the point, it seems that voters are looking beyond those things, seeing Obama for what he is:  a brilliant and thoughtful man who also happens to be the finest political orator this country has seen since John Kennedy.  In fact, I think it helps that he doesn’t look or sound like any other candidate in the race on either side.  My daughter, who is twelve right now, LOVES Obama.  So do all of her friends.  Yes, I know.  She’s twelve.  She’ll be thirteen by November.  But when I was her age, I worked for Jimmy Carter, and while I was involved in Carter’s campaign, I wasn’t enthusiastic about him.  I just wanted to rid the government of the last remnants of the Nixon Administration.  But my daughter and her friends think Obama is utterly cool.  When was the last time kids thought ANY politician was cool?  They look at him, and it doesn’t even occur to them to wonder if a man of African descent with a non-Western name can be elected.  I’m not so naive that I believe race doesn’t matter anymore, but how can you look at what’s happening right now in the campaign and not believe that we as a nation have made progress.

It’s not just twelve year-olds, either.  The enthusiasm that Obama evokes from young voters is unlike anything I’ve ever seen (I’m just a year or two too young to remember the 1968 campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy).  That might not be enough to carry him to victory in November, but it does make me wonder.  Tennessee votes on February 5, and I’m starting to think that come that day, I’ll be voting for Obama.

Today’s “music”:  N.Y. Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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