by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
January 4, 2008
IOWA SHOULD BE PROUD
BRADENTON, Fla. -- If you were standing here in front of me and asked me how I felt about the outcome of the Iowa Democratic caucus, I probably wouldn't be able to talk.
Sen. Barack Obama never made his ethnic background an issue or a reason for his campaign, but I never managed to forget he was a black man running for President in America, where most of the time, on any white street in any mostly white town in this country, a black man is an object of suspicion, resentment and fear.
But I can't talk to you tonight because I am so choked up with pride in my country, my race, and the people of Iowa, who on this historic occasion have taken our whole people one step further along the path toward realizing true equality. You are magnificent, America. Iowa, you should be proud.
"You have done what the cyncics said we couldn't do," he told an enormous crowd at his Iowa victory party. "You have stood up and said, 'We are one nation, one people, and our time for change has come.'"
Obama is not perfect. He speaks at me, not to me, while the GOP winner, Mike Huckabee, who is ideologically a thousand miles away from me, speaks directly to my heart, which is not that open to him. Obama strikes poses in profile, full of pride and dignity but poses nonetheless, and thinks as he does so.
You can't see Huckabee thinking - he probably doesn't do a lot of it - but he doesn't strike poses, either. He's a down-to-earth guy. I worry, when I see during their victory speeches that Obama's crowd is set in the bleachers 10 feet behind him and Huckabee's crowd is looking over his shoulder. I can predict just from these small indications that Obama will branded as a liberal intellectual who is too full of himself and that in some measure he will suffer the same fate as Sen. John Kerry in 2004.
He will be hobbled by those very qualities that are, within him, an authentic response to the sounding drum of America's forward march. And since those are character traits that will not change, he needs an answer - a joke, an admission, and perhaps even a reminder of why we try to educate our children - some special touch that makes a fellow who was editor of the Harvard Law Review more than a dry and witty scholar.
I suspect that most of the fire he will take during this 2008 campaign is going to come from Democrats in the next month. As Republicans take a deep breath and weigh whether they can swallow the idea of replacing the idiot they last elected with an Arkansas preacher named Huckabee, enormous challenges to Obama will arise in the Deep South and Florida.
Hillary Clinton is leading in the polls with 50 percent of the vote here in Florida, and Rudy Giuliani enjoys a comparable lead. Obama can't hope to overtake Hillary here, and Huckabee won't lay a glove on Rudy Giuliani, but the Democratic delegates don't count for the Democrats, and only half count for Giuliani. What that means is that Obama and McCain and Romney get a free pass in Florida ahead of the 22-state Feb. 5 Megaprimary, as it's known. But Florida and the Deep South are the very birthplace of racial division.
Down here, if the issue of race is to rear its ugly head, it will do so suddenly, directly and with the traditional brutality of its local origins. There's a great new momentum that is ready to resist it, but the clash will be painful.
Meanwhile, every time I see an edition of "Cops" or something like it in which a black suspect is the unwilling star, I will wonder whether the selection of that particular segment was aimed at influencing the election. Every time I see an ad that shows black children starving in Africa, I will wonder if it was intended by the evangelists - some of whom perpetrated the KKK and similar groups with formidable passion - to remind people of Obama's Kenyan father. As the violence in Kenya stretches out and grows worse, will it also hurt Obama by association?
Every time I see huge amounts of coverage devoted to a notorious black man of national stature like Michael Vick or O.J. Simpson, I will wonder if it's the not-so-subtle way a conservative white publisher or broadcaster is trying to indict the Obama campaign.
And, sooner or later, Barack will have to start talking about the vastly disproportionate number of black men who are in and out of prison, who leave their children fatherless, who are the disproportionate victims of homicide and drugs, and a quarter of whom are unemployed.
"Hope! Hope!" he shouted on Tuesday night. I can only hope that Americans who encounter the Obama campaign across this nation in coming months will demonstrate the same intelligence, insight and vision - and yes, the democratic sense of fairness and equality - that Iowans showed us tonight.
It makes me awfully proud, and hopeful, too. It chokes me up.
Reach Joe Shea at email@example.com.