I’ve seen various people on various LJs and blogs talking about this, so I figured I’d add my two cents here.
Obama’s win in Iowa is huge, and not just for the obvious historical context (a black man winning in 92%-white Iowa). It matters for the following reasons:
1) Obama represents the nail in the coffin of the Boomer Culture War — we as a country can finally stop fighting the “Woodstock vs. Vietnam” battle. He doesn’t buy into the whole “red vs blue” thing. His legislative record (in the Illinois legislature especially, but also in the Senate) is one of reaching across the aisle and building concensus. Bush once famously lied that he was a “uniter, not a divider.” Obama actually walks that walk.
2) Perhaps best of all, Obama’s win (and also Huckabee’s, for that matter), is a shotgun blast to the face of the Professional Pundit Class. A clear demonstration that the gasbags who fill our national discourse 24/7 with their exalted opinions…are actually just pulling it out of their asses. They don’t know what they’re talking about, and now the country has proof. Remember — Hillary was inevitable, and Romney & Guiliani were in a two-man race.
3) Demonstrating that the enthusiasm of the people can counter the most organized political machine. Clinton had name recognition, a massive organization, 15 years of entrenched political allies occupying the top positions in the party, the buzz of history-making gender…..and in the end, people recognized that her only real accomplishments were being married to an ex-President and walking through a cake-walk election against a sacrificial lamb opponent (Rick Lazio) in a state where an unripe tomato could be elected if they were on the Democratic ticket.
4) Obama is the candidate the Republicans are afraid of — they *wanted* Clinton. She represented a fundraising and get-out-the-vote BOOM to them. They had already started using her as a boogeyman for that purpose. With Obama, they don’t get that. Plus, they run the risk of appearing racist if they overplay their hand against him, which they’re very aware of. Even better, a lot of moderate Republicans *like* Obama, and see him as a viable option against the growing Fundy arm of their own party.
5) He’s brilliant, and delivers exceptionally strong speeches. I’ve seen some comments writing him off for this very reason, oddly enough. What these critics don’t understand is that the biggest job facing our next President is repairing America’s image abroad and re-forging alliances. If that’s not a job for a grab-’em-by-the-throat emotionally moving speaker, I don’t know what is. After 8 years of cowboy swagger (and hell, to be honest, 16 years of “aw shucks, I’m jes’ a good ol’ boy” Southernisms), Obama is exactly what the doctor ordered.
6) Obama is also the best answer to the other critical question of the next term — the “unitary executive” and unreviewable executive authority. Obama has said that he’d roll back that power-grab, and abide by the laws of the land. Clinton hedged her bets, saying that “in rare instances”, she’d still use signing statements to bypass provisions. That’s not something which any of us should consider acceptable.
So, my prediction: Obama in NH, and then South Carolina, and then it’s all momentum from there. The problem ahead is that Clinton will probably get pretty nasty as she gets more desperate, which the media will of course eat up, and devote tons of attention to.
The other problem beyond that, of course, is unfortunately all-too-easily envisioned, when dealing with a candidate who reminds a lot of folks of JFK. Here’s hoping he avoids that particular fate.