Tonight, Senator Barack Obama sent a powerful message to the American electorate, solidifying his position as a true contender for the Democratic nomination. His landslide victory in South Carolina not only got his struggling campaign back on track, it reminded America that they could be witnessing a political phenomena we haven't seen in over a generation. The polls leading up to South Carolina showed Obama cruising to a 10+ point victory; but when the returns started coming in, it was clear that Obama beat Clinton by almost 30 points and turned out almost 300,000 votes, more votes than the entire democratic field in 2004.
"Over two weeks ago, we saw the people of Iowa proclaim that our time for change has come. But there were those who doubted this country's desire for something new – who said Iowa was a fluke not to be repeated again. Well, tonight, the cynics who believed that what began in the snows of Iowa was just an illusion were told a different story by the good people of South Carolina. After four great contests in every corner of this country, we have the most votes, the most delegates, and the most diverse coalition of Americans we've seen in a long, long time."After a few weeks of missteps, accusations and bickering, Obama appears to have recaptured the energy that lifted him to victory in Iowa. In a must-win situation Obama delivered a convincing one, setting the stage for a potentially extended primary battle well into the spring. While America now awaits the results of February 5th, we should take a few moments to reflect on why Senator Obama matters and how he could very well reshape politics in this country.
"So let me remind you tonight that change will not be easy. That change will take time. There will be setbacks, and false starts, and sometimes we will make mistakes. But as hard as it may seem, we cannot lose hope. Because there are people all across this country who are counting us; who can't afford another four years without health care or good schools or decent wages because our leaders couldn't come together and get it done."
Why Obama matters.
Obama is the first candidate in at least a generation who can not only mobilize new voters to the polls, but inspire them to become politically active. No candidate on either side of the aisle can guarantee record turnout each and every time their name is on the ballot. His ability to mobilize young voters and African-Americans, two key groups for Dems is invaluable in terms of a general election scenario.
Obama's message while at times lacks specifics, speaks directly at what the non-voting majority loathes about politics: cynicism, gamesmanship, expediency and calculation. He comes off authentic and above the typical political fray. If he can add some substance to his rhetoric, he could craft a narrative that just might re frame the language of our current political discourse.
"And what we've seen in these last weeks is that we're also up against forces that are not the fault of any one campaign, but feed the habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation. It's the politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon. A politics that tells us that we have to think, act, and even vote within the confines of the categories that supposedly define us. The assumption that young people are apathetic. The assumption that Republicans won't cross over. The assumption that the wealthy care nothing for the poor, and that the poor don't vote. The assumption that African-Americans can't support the white candidate; whites can't support the African-American candidate; blacks and Latinos can't come together. "
Obama does seem to truly cross over and garner support among Republicans and Independents. Former GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough noted that during Obama's victory speech in South Carolina, he received numerous emails and text messages from GOP partisans who admitted that they liked him as a candidate and saw him as the most formidable foe in the Democratic field.
"When I hear that we'll never overcome the racial divide in our politics, I think about that Republican woman who used to work for Strom Thurmond, who's now devoted to educating inner-city children and who went out onto the streets of South Carolina and knocked on doors for this campaign. Don't tell me we can't change"
Finally, his ability to communicate to the American people is unparalleled. Tonight, he gave a powerful speech that sent chills up the spines of all within earshot from wide-eyed novices to jaded career hacks. He somehow pulled off magnanimous, defiant, principled, confrontational, humbled, battle-tested and idealistic all at once. The more opportunities he has to speak to the country on similar stages the better for his campaign. He was very clear that this campaign is about, "the past versus the future." He makes people actually feel good about being American and believing in the lofty ideals that most of us have given up on a long time ago. As Caroline Kennedy wrote in her endorsement of Obama in the New York Times, "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."
Yes we can change.
Yes we can heal this nation.
Yes we can seize our future.
And as we leave this state with a new wind at our backs, and take this journey across the country we love with the message we've carried from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire; from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope; and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people in three simple words:
Yes. We. Can.