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Barack Obama, the First American-African

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Mike Huckabee, Barack Obama (The New York Times)

I’ve been a political junkie since childhood—because the politics of my tender years were incredibly dramatic, intense and historic.

The searing TV image of my childhood was Black children and old people getting water-cannoned and beaten, sometimes killed, for such crimes as going to school or registering to vote.

John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Everett Dirksen, Charlie Halleck. Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Robert F. Kennedy. Martin Luther King Junior.

As a TV-glued child, I lived through the most amazing times, as the Civil Rights movement succeeded, then receded as the horrific Vietnam War took center stage.

These people and events shaped history and millions of lives, so I don’t apologize for my addiction to politics. This morning I woke up thinking, “Finally, the Iowa caucuses.”

It was a long day of waiting. I got some other work done, was fairly productive. But when 6:30pm Iowa time came around, the opening of the Republican caucuses, I was glued to my computer screen, shuttling back and forth between live blogs from The New York Times and ABC News. (I no longer watch TV; haven’t since my lover got sick 20 years ago. I no longer had time for entertainment, stopped paying attention and quit buying cable.)

About 7pm my friend Tom called and invited me over to watch CNN. I wasn’t sure at first, because I was enjoying following the caucus story online, but five minutes later I called back and said, “I’ll be there, thanks, yeah.” So I went to Scott and Tom’s house, watched the night unfold.

When I first met Scott a few years ago he was seriously conservative, a Republican. He’s a wonderful man, one of the best people I know, but his politics made no sense to me. Tom was a corporate-hating Democrat; they used to get into shouting matches. I’ve been a liberal Democrat since LBJ, MLK and HHH.

Scott’s evolved rather amazingly, and now favors Hillary Rodham Clinton. Tom’s a fan of Barack Obama. My favorite in Iowa was John Edwards, the lone opponent of George W. Bush’s oligarchy. I’ve lobbied Tom, a victim of corporate downsizing and discrimination, that Edwards is closest to his views, but Tom’s prejudiced against trial lawyers; he’s got his conservative streak too. We all do.

Let me watch free TV, even if it’s that awful Wolf Blitzer? Sure! And then unfolded quite a surprising result—not that there weren’t indications, polls and prognosticators, but still, the conventional wisdom doesn’t die hard.

The insider picks were Clinton and Romney. The voters chose Obama and Huckabee.

With Scott and Tom sharing their cable, I got to watch all the major candidates give their “We did great” speeches. Listening to the live speeches gave me impressions and insights I wouldn’t otherwise have had from the newspaper summaries. I’m totally convinced that newspapers deliver more depth, but watching the live speeches on TV gives us an invaluable, unfiltered view of events as they happen, so I “really should” buy cable I suppose.

First up came Edwards, my favorite (after Kucinich); I felt he gave his standard stump speech, which I enjoyed but felt went on too long. Obama beat him soundly, and I felt a bit of disconnect.

Next up was Hillary, who smiled and charmed and looked relaxed and gave a strong speech pointing to New Hampshire. For some reason CNN’s pundits didn’t really listen, but analyzed her defeat instead of her speech. Then came Obama, the winner, about whom I’ve waxed and waned. I was and still am offended by his South Carolina appearance with an anti-Gay Gospel singer. My distrust of the Clintons, and refusal to vote for Bill in 1996 (my first-ever non-vote) dates back to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” when his political ineptitude led to his selling LGBTs down the river.

So up came Obama, the American-African, giving one of the best political speeches I’ve ever heard.

“They said this day would never come.” You knew instantly he wasn’t just talking about his own candidacy, but about his Blackness. He never once mentioned race, but he did invoke Selma and Birmingham; the measure of his brilliance is that he doesn’t even have to mention race.

While all the pundits described him as Black, in fact he’s mixed-race, and he’s not about to throw his White mother under the bus. All Americans would turn on him if he did, but he’s not about to. He then proceeded to speak the cadences of the Black church, pulling the entire nation and much of the world into his embrace.

Earlier today I e-mailed a friend in Amsterdam, “Obama’s all process, no policy,” but tonight’s speech was masterful. His convincing win in lily-White Iowa will indeed go down in history, whether he wins the Presidency or not. Iowa voted for a “Black” man, and suddenly the world is ripe with possibilities.

I am so glad Tom and Scott let me see this live.

No one can predict how this race will turn out. We all know we will have a woman President one day, a Black President, a Hispanic/Latino and an openly-Gay one (following in James Buchanan’s closeted footsteps). If Obama should falter, he still made history tonight, he will always be the forerunner.

Tonight America grew up. Thank you, Iowa; thank you Sen. Obama. Thank you, all the Democratic candidates.

“They said this day would never come,” but we knew it would; we didn’t know when. Now we know it will be sometime soon. Thanks be to God.

Whatever happens in New Hampshire, Obama will dominate South Carolina and invoke his mom from Kansas. He is the first American-African.++

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