"Barack the Vote"
In case you missed it, Senator Barack Obama officially announced his candidacy for president this morning from Springfield. It was a good speech; he did himself proud, and he got the crowd fired up on what looked like an awfully cold day out there. The line I liked best, and one I hadn't heard before, was about how it might seem rather presumptuous of him to announce for president after only having been in the Senate for two years, "I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change!"
He's right, of course, and that's what I think is very attractive about Obama to many, many people (myself included). It was what attracted me to John McCain eight years ago (gosh that seems so long ago now), and it's something that I think is hard to capture in any sustained way. If anyone can do it this time around, I think it's Obama. It's the challenge he issues to our generation that we can be better, that if we can get over our petty partisanship and work together to get things done, they can happen. True, it's a little idealistic, but frankly a little idealism wouldn't be a bad thing in this country right now. Who knows how this campaign's going to work itself out - it's going to be a long, hard slog - but I think given the choices out there, Obama's message is the one that's going to be the most different and the one that's going to be the most inspiring to people across the ideological spectrum.
After the speech C-SPAN took a few calls - usually I don't listen to the calls since they scare me to death for the state of this country, but today I paid attention for a few minutes. One person asked if Obama was Irish (after hearing Ted Kennedy make a joke about it and apparently taking him seriously). Another asked if Americans had considered the repercussions of electing a Muslim president - when the host informed her that Obama was a member of the United Church of Christ, she said she'd heard that he'd changed his middle name to Mohammed and embraced Islam. The host then told her his actual name, and she said "oh, thanks" and hung up. Of about the ten calls I heard, however, most were strongly supportive. Clearly Obama's got some name recognition issues to work on and some misperceptions to overcome ... I suppose one advantage of the incredibly long campaign season might be that these things will fade in time.
It's certainly going to be an interesting year and a half.