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The New York Sun


Change May Now Be Happening

January 10, 2008

By John H. McWhorter

As recently as a month ago, "Obamamania" was being eulogized, with Mr. Obama dismissed as a mere symbolic step towards a successful black candidacy in some distant era.

But that era may well be now.

Okay, Hillary Clinton came out ahead in New Hampshire—but that was a surprise, and by a mere two points.

A standard line among black people has been that whites would cheer for Mr. Obama in public but then vote white. I have had a hunch that the junior senator's charisma and totemic weight was such that this old tendency would be overriden. Iowa showed that hunch to be correct.

It will be said that whites must have lied in the New Hampshire polls, which indicated that Mr. Obama would come out on top. However, besides that this is a fragile argument, if whites did lie, apparently it wasn't very many of them.

Mr. Obama did get, after all, almost as many votes as Mrs. Clinton — and 20 points more than John Edwards. This is a glass half full — and South Carolina, with its half black electorate, gives all signs of filling it to the top.

Meanwhile, what I heard last year from whites and blacks is that the Clinton folks or the Republican machine will dig up dirt on Mr. Obama that will deep-six his candidacy. Okay — but what's the holdup? If there were any real mud to sling, why keep it under wraps until now?

Pretending the man is a closet Muslim hasn't worked. He's already admitted that he used drugs as a lad, and it doesn't seem to matter to anyone.

Plus, Mr. Obama's lack of experience on the national stage actually works to his advantage. There are no high-profile scandals or dirty deals of any lasting interest, because he simply wasn't around. Nor does there seem to be anything in his closet other than his drug use from times previous. The punditocracy wrinkles its brow over his lack of foreign policy experience in an era when it would obviously be welcome. Yet Jimmy Carter wound up in the Oval Office during the heat of the Cold War, when running the Peachtree State had lent him no opportunity to go mano a mano with the Russkies.

Yes, Mr. Carter rode in on indignation over Watergate. But we can all agree that there is indignation of similar heat now, and crucially, Mr. Obama has a lot more it than Mr. Carter. The heat is as crucial in electing a candidate as the wonkier interests of political junkies.

One might ask why Barack Obama would not become the next president?

If Independent voters will be the deciding factor, then it's indicative that in Iowa and New Hampshire, they leaned towards Mr. Obama rather than John McCain.

Or, who could give any reasons with confidence that most swing voters would prefer Rudolph Giuliani, Mitt Romney, or even Mike Huckabee over Mr. Obama? All three candidates have glaring negatives of the sort that Mr. Obama does not.

Certain readers, I must note, will mistake me as writing in despair. Because of my writing here two summers ago that the enthusiasm over Mr. Obama would not exist if he were white, which at the time was true, and a misimpression that I called him "a mammy" one night on Fox News, I was assailing whites for treating him as one, many suppose that I am opposed to an Obama presidency.

However, I welcome the prospect, and have indicated such in many columns and venues over the past year. The sensationalism of my potentially being the Black Writer Against Obama apparently exerts a certain fascination, such that my column on September 2006 was still being quoted last week.

To me, that column is an archival matter. It made sense then, but events have passed it by.

One of many plusses about Barack Obama: An America where those insisting we remain a few steps past Jim Crow will have to grapple with the simple fact of a black man riding in Air Force One and making State of the Union addresses.

Under a President Obama, far too many black people would still be poor and need our help to change that. Yet there would be less room for the recreational angst behind claims that racism is what America is all about. Iowa and New Hampshire have already made an opening argument against such views.

As of this week, there is an air of "Dewey Defeats Truman" about the bedrock assumption that money and connections will inevitably make Hillary Clinton the Democratic nominee, or that Mr. Obama, condemned by his black skin, would be hopelessly outmatched by any of the distinctly unexciting Republican candidates on deck today.

It's high time that we let go of studious defeatism and open up to the fact that change does happen and that it may be happening right now.

Original Source:



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