I have been extremely reluctant to write about politics in this blog. I am new here and not looking to lose friends and antagonize people. A bilingual French media outlet in Paris, France 24, however, has asked me to write commentary on the presidential election. And now I've got the fever. The editor said he found my views to be independent and colorful.
I hope they also prove thoughtful. I may not be able to pull my punches sometimes (my apologies in advance to Mrs. Clinton and almost all of the Republicans), but I hope the occasional political missives here provide a forum for thoughtful discussion -- not point scoring.
My hope is to provide a different look at the issues of the day. Agree or disagree, I hope you'll respond by making comments on the blog. Most of DC Reflections will continue to be the old-fashioned newspaper column I enjoy writing, but I can not avoid the influence of politics in this town. I may opine about the presidential race, Congress, the D.C. City Council, and maybe a state government or two. But I won't write about politics a lot -- and if you, gentle readers, find no value in this discourse, it won't be long-lived at all.
Following is the gist of my first piece for France 24. I'll borrow from it to get me started on my first two pieces.
A great man's dream coming true -- in Iowa of all places ... King's shadow stretches across Hawkeye state
Political pundits were right when they said voters giving the nod to Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama did so because they wanted change -- but they missed the most important point Thursday night.
Forget Huckabee. His campaign is going to be irrelevant a month from now and, even if he somehow wins his party's nomination, there's no way he would win a general election because his extremely socially conservative (evangelical) views are too far out of step with mainstream America. Clinton can't win a national election either because she is too socially and fiscally liberal for the majority of Americans -- people who also see right through her phony, calculated personality-of-the-week persona.
That brings us back to Obama, a man whose views I mostly disagree with but who made me go to bed Thursday night proud to be an American.
As a progressive-minded but politically independent Southerner (I moved here from Atlanta seven months ago), I dreamed of the day that my country would more closely resemble the nation Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned when he spoke of the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners sitting down together at the table of brotherhood. While America in the past 50 years has made painfully small but consistent strides in opening the full array of her opportunities to people of all backgrounds, I was stunned to see people of Lily white Iowa put the country on its back for a giant leap.
Though only 2.3 percent of Iowa's population is black, Iowans turned out in droves to support a man with a father from Kenya. Obama's win speaks volumes for progress in America.
Yes, in Lily white Iowa of all places.
Long before the Thursday caucus, I wanted to believe my fellow Americans wouldn't deny Obama their vote for less than honorable reasons. I wanted to believe we had reached a point in which, again in King's words, people would judge Obama not based on the color of his skin but the content of his character. Vote against him because of his policy views, fair enough, but not because of his pigmentation.
If Iowans did right by America that night, Obama did them right by delivering one of the best victory speeches I've ever heard. He spoke with confidence and candor, and with both humility and the pinch of hubris anyone seeking the nation's highest office needs. He honored other uphill battles this country has won, from the American Revolution to World War II and the Civil Rights movement. If Democrats across the country go on to make him their nominee, he said he would do his absolute best to prove worthy of their confidence.
His speech was so good I almost forgot how much we disagree.
Something else about his speech struck me, too. Like a lot of people in in this country, I still wasn't quite sure what I thought about Obama before the caucus win. He seemed like a genuine, stand-up guy, and I'm all for anyone not named Bush or Clinton making his or her way on to the national political scene. In the back of my mind, though, I wondered: Does this guy have the gravitas to be president of the United States?
Thursday night, for the first time, I thought the man looked "presidential". He had an aura about him on that podium that said to me, "I may be young. I may not have spent my entire life in politics. But I can do this job. I am up to the task. And I can honor this office."
I suspected a great many people from Alaska to Alabama found themselves thinking the same thing in that moment.
Regardless of my political differences with Obama and his supporters, and I may well go vote for him in the Democratic primary as I have no party, I'm glad he won in Iowa -- and I'm damn proud to be associated with the Americans who turned out in his favor.