Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too

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Very good news from Iowa tonight for Obama supporters as Barack takes Iowa by a solid margin (at the moment it’s just about 7%). The turnout is the other huge story tonight—the Obama campaign is claiming over 200,000 people turned out, which if true is approximately twice the participation in 2004.

That the Republicans decided to go with Hucklebee is just the icing on the cake.

I already spoke a little bit today about the reasons why I support Obama, reasons I find echoed in this piece Bill Simmon sent me from the Carpetbagger Report.

So in honor of this historic occasion, let’s just skip all that and go back in time instead to the moment that started it all:

The site is long gone now, but I just checked my personal archives for the post I wrote on Three Guys after the speech in 2004. Here’s what I had to say back then:


That man really is going to be president.

But as usual it’s my good friend Shankar D who’s worth listening to:

Obama gave a simply great speech that will, I believe, be remembered for a very long time. Like Clinton, he evoked a belief in the essential unity of the American people, but with much more powerful rhetoric and moving imagery. It was a much-needed clarion call at a time when ideologues on both sides of the aisle seem to relish and cherish the cultural boundaries that separate us from each other. A call that had no more fitting author than a man whose very existence bridges that gap.

But for progressives, it should be remembered for more than that. In those powerful final paragraphs, Obama premised his call for unity on the fundamentally liberal ideals of brotherhood and compassion.

For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. “E pluribus unum.” Out of many, one.

Martin Luther King Jr. is smiling from above, I suspect, at this young black man giving life to the abstract notion that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

By weaving this old-fashioned liberalism together with an embrace of the principles and people of “the other side” – individualism, a pragmatic view of government’s role, and an embrace of our Red State brethren – Obama fused the promise of the left with the promise of America.

The drunken reverie of the moment will undoubtedly wear off. But tonight, I feel a renewed sense of hope about the possibility of a New Liberalism that accounts for the poor, the isolated, and the marginalized in a way that brings us together, rather than pushes us apart. Idealism will always have to confront the reality of politics and life itself, but great leadership is its surest steward. And if nothing else, I am hopeful tonight about the future leadership of this country. Such is, I suppose, the audacity of hope.

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