When so many states are at stake and so many voters go to the polls, one is tempted when summing up Super Tuesday to go overboard and try to overwhelm the reader with numbers and story lines.
I am going to assume that most of you have already absorbed the statistics and many of the headlines that give us the big picture of what happened last night. So instead of summarizing who won and who lost, there is a small corner of the story that I would like to highlight.
An extraordinary statistic jumped out of the jumble of numbers and percentages that pulled me up short and caused me to reflect on the past as well as the future. In the exit polls from the Democratic party primary in Georgia, nestled in with indicators of age, income, and religion was the vote cast by white males. When you think about it, this is startling:
Vote by Sex and Race Clinton Edwards Obama
White Men (16%)
Clinton – 48%
Edwards – 6%
Obama – 45%
Within Obama’s lifetime, a black man in Georgia has gone from being prevented from exercising his right to vote to capturing a near majority of the sons and grandsons of his former oppressors in a run for the highest office in the land.
I suppose it’s no big thing for many younger Americans who weren’t born and raised with the idea that there were limits inherent in the American political system that would prevent a black man from achieving what Mr. Obama has achieved. It is a shameful thing to believe in those limits – bred to it by history and circumstance as we of my generation were.
And it is hard to throw off the chains that limited our vision and stifled our imaginations which for 300 years has viewed the African American race as an uncomfortable appendage to America – better seen and not heard while demanding they accept first slavery, then second class citizenship, and finally the tyranny of low expectations that both liberals and conservatives have been guilty of fostering.
I don’t care for Mr. Obama’s politics. I devoutly hope he is not elected President of the United States. But I do care very much that whatever success he enjoys is a good thing for America despite our disagreement on the issues. And in the long skein of our remarkable, troubled history as a people, we have had precious few moments when the original sin of slavery has been redeemed in some small way by the actions of both whites and blacks, united the only way that counts; in the voting booth where southern white men were willing to grant the enormous power of the presidency to a black man.
And lest I cast too many aspersions on southern white males by highlighting the historical relevance of Obama’s achievement, I need not remind readers of history that northern urban centers were not very welcoming of African Americans when the great migration occurred from south to north in the early decades of the 20th century.
While not suffering the nauseating indignities of Jim Crow laws, blacks in the north were taken for granted by the Democratic party political machines while being denied opportunities that whites were routinely granted. It may not be as historically significant that Barack Obama won 70% of the vote in Kansas, one of the whitest states in the union. But it is still a signpost that points the way to a very different kind of future than the one those of us of a certain age imagined so many years ago.
Obama has won 12 primaries of the 22 contested races. He won in the west, the south, the north the east, and the Midwest. He won in big states and small states. He was much more competitive in states like New Jersey and Massachusetts than could have been imagined a few short weeks ago.
He has transcended party and ideology, attracting droves of young people and those who have never participated in the political process to his banner. And he has excited Democrats and elicited admiration from Republicans as no other candidate in recent memory.
It is an achievement that beyond his race and compelling personal story, reminds us that America is still the land of opportunity for those willing to embrace the dream and live it to your fullest potential. Obama has made the most of his opportunities, climbing the ladder of success, his talent recognized at every level which led to, in turn, other opportunities. He is not a sudden success but rather he made it the old fashioned way; hard work and maximizing his chances for advancement.
And now he stands as a candidate with as good a chance of winning the presidential nomination as Hillary Clinton – a politician perhaps not as gifted but the inheritor of the most efficient and professional political machine in modern political history. No matter what happens from here on out, Obama’s place in history is secure.
As a conservative and nominal Republican, Obama is an anathema to everything I believe. But watching him has cheered my soul and given me hope that future generations of America will, in the immortal words of Dr. King, judge people “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Rick Moran blogs at Right Wing Nut House.