Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Iowa Message

I'm shocked to read such a glowing WSJ editorial on Obama's win -- with a photo even!
The Iowa Message
January 5, 2008; Page A8

Iowa's caucus-goers shook up the conventions of American politics Thursday night, and to our mind mostly to the good. Barack Obama's convincing Democratic triumph, based on a huge increase in Iowa voter turnout, is at least a historic cultural moment and maybe a political one. Mike Huckabee's Republican victory probably has less long-term meaning but also has some salutary effects.

Mr. Obama's message of "change" and a new national unity clearly captured the imagination of Democrats, drawing in nearly double the number of participants who have ever attended an Iowa caucus. As a black man running in a nearly all-white state, Mr. Obama's triumph should also put to rest the canard that Americans won't vote for a black President.

We've long believed the country is ready to do so and might have elected Colin Powell had he run. But Mr. Obama is the first serious African-American candidate who has explicitly avoided race-specific appeals. Like Catholicism to Jack Kennedy, Mr. Obama's race is part of his political character but doesn't define it. His success marks a watershed in American political history.

The Illinois Senator's performance is also welcome as a sign that most Democrats want to "move on," as some of them like to say, from the Clinton era. Bill Clinton has described his wife Hillary's campaign as a case of "back to the future," even as she too has claimed to be an agent of change. But inevitably, if she were the nominee, the baggage of their earlier co-Presidency would attend her campaign and might help defeat her in November.

Something like half of the American people say they could never vote for Senator Clinton, and Democrats who are eager to retake the White House know this. Mr. Obama promises a break from these polarizing politics, as well as from the dynastic Presidential chain of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. Mr. Obama's call for change has its ambiguities, to say the least, but one of its explicit themes is a promise to end the partisan feuds of the last 15 years -- which for the Clintons are nearly bloodfeuds. This strikes us as healthy both for Democrats and the country.

Mr. Obama's campaign rhetoric is also notable for its optimism, in contrast to John Edwards's angry populism. Mr. Edwards is now citing his second-place Iowa finish as a vindication of his call for "change." But he's taken to running essentially like the trial lawyer he is, as if he is prosecuting a giant tort case against all of American business and politics. Mr. Edwards speaks of villains and victims, Mr. Obama of aspiration and opportunity. The latter is what Americans want from a President.


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