Barack Obama claimed the Democratic Party nomination for President, making history as the first black American to appear on a major-party presidential ticket in either slot. He ran an unbelievably powerful campaign against a woman who wanted to make history by being the first female to top a ticket, twenty-four years after Geraldine Ferraro ran as Walter Mondale’s running mate and lost to Ronald Reagan. This morning, many in the media are congratulating Obama, but sound more like they’re congratulating themselves:
Senator Barack Obama claimed the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday evening, prevailing through an epic battle with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a primary campaign that inspired millions of voters from every corner of America to demand change in Washington.
A last-minute rush of Democratic superdelegates, as well as the results from the final primaries, in Montana and South Dakota, pushed Mr. Obama over the threshold of winning the 2,118 delegates needed to be nominated at the party’s convention in August. The victory for Mr. Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, broke racial barriers and represented a remarkable rise for a man who just four years ago served in the Illinois Senate.
Let’s make something clear in this scenario, which the Times accurately reports in this passage. Obama has not yet won the nomination. The superdelegates by rule can change their minds at any time before they cast their votes. Obama is still hundreds shy in pledged delegates, which means Obama will win the nomination if and only if the public declarations of the superdelegates do not change between now and Denver. It’s unlikely that enough would do so to give Hillary the nomination, but it is a possibility.
With that caveat, Obama’s nomination does demonstrate the openness of the American system. The irony of this, of course, is that Obama’s own associates don’t believe that America transcends race and allows for success for people of color. To listen to Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s friend and pastor of 20 years, is to hear how America is a place that conspires against black people and plots their genocide. Father Michael Pfleger, a man to whom Obama directed taxpayer funds while in the Illinois legislature, believes America to be so racist that he called this nation “the greatest sin against God”.
In watching and reading some of the reaction, many reveled in Obama’s nomination for the same reason. They want to feel good about America rather than have an experienced nominee. In fact, they not only want to feel good about America, they want to feel good about themselves. They wanted to be part of that historical moment, and that was their first priority — and that’s not limited to Obama supporters, either. The lament one hears most about Hillary’s collapsehas nothing to do with policy, experience, or expertise, but that she didn’t get to be the one who makes history.
Well, history has been made, and I congratulate Senator Obama on beating the Clintons, a truly remarkable achievement considering the groundwork laid for Hillary’s bid over the last eight years. Perhaps now we can focus less on making history and back-clapping and start determining which candidate has the experience, accomplishments, and consistency to make the best President.