Ever since Sen. Barack Obama announced the beginning of an exploratory committee to run for president in 2008, there has been a tremendous amount of excitement that has spread outside the traditional circle of pundits and political power brokers. The media is eager to dissect this excitement, to question it, to hold it up to ridicule. Make no mistake, this excitement is real and it is something progressives should be applauding, not deriding.
As Sen. Obama has said Americans “are looking for something different–we want something new.” Obama is more than something new though. He is the first potential Democratic candidate who’s mustered the charisma, energy and promise of Bill Clinton, unsurprisingly the last Democrat who won the presidency. He’s an articulate and appealing speaker. He is the only serious contender for the nomination who has had the right position on the most important issue of the day (Iraq) since the very beginning of that conflict (he opposes the war and wants a redeployment of troops). He presents an opportunity to bring a ethnic diversity to the White House for the first time.
Yet progressives are skeptical. They assail his voting record, when it’s actually one of the most progressive we have to choose from. They question his experience when two of our greatest presidents, Kennedy and Lincoln could barely boast of having more in their days. Even African-Americans have succumbed to negative doubts. Robert Ford, a black state senator from South Carolina who supports John Edwards said, “We in the South don’t believe America is ready to elect a black President”.
Well I am one black American who believes we are. I have met and known whites and blacks from all walks of life and from different political persuasions who are intrigued by and open to supporting a Barack Obama candidacy. A recent poll found that 93 percent of Americans are willing to vote for a black candidate. It should be 100 percent, but I’ll take it as a vast improvement over recent years.
Is Sen. Obama a flawless candidate? No. Does he share a liberal-progressive’s views on all the important issues of our day? Most likely not. Should he be served the nomination on a silver platter? Absolutely not. But Americans who are on the left of the political spectrum have been complaining for years now about a lack of an exciting alternative to the Republicans come election time. They held their noses as they cast votes for conventional, safe and experienced candidates like Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry. All of them were decent, qualified men who inspired practically no one. Why not now, just for a moment, bask in the adoration and admiration that Obama manages to generate, and instead of picking him apart, perhaps we should just be glad that he appears to be on our side.