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A New Political Calculus

The Obama campaign continues to perplex the pundits and the politicians who insist on operating with an outdated political calculus based on fear, hatred and self-interest. Some in the press see Obama’s dominant victory in South Carolina as an indication that Obama’s candidacy will trigger huge racial divisions that will tear up the party and lead to disaster.  One passage from an AP article appearing in the Sun News of Myrtle Beach reads:

While blacks overwhelmingly favored Obama, the exit poll showed he got only about 25 percent of the white vote. The racial split raises fresh questions about whether Obama can win in states outside the South, despite his early victory in overwhelmingly white Iowa.

However, in his article, Opening Up a Can of Obama, John Dickerson of  puts these numbers in context:

“Going into primary day, the national press and political class obsessed over whether Obama’s victory would be diminished because he performed disproportionally well among African-Americans. Obama did in fact obliterate his opponents among black voters, winning 82 percent of the vote, but he also got a quarter of the white vote. Obama also did well among independents, who made up 23 percent of the primary electorate: He beat Clinton 40 percent to 23 percent, which helps his argument to Democrats voting in future states that he can capture those swing voters in a contest with Republicans in the fall.”

Even the Sun News admits that the big news was the huge turnout on the Democratic side: Obama alone collected more votes than were cast in the 2004 Democratic Presidential primary and the number of Democrats voting outnumbered the Republican turnout last week. All of this suggests that South Carolina would be a state in play for the Democrats in November if Obama is the nominee.

Obama is a cross-over candidate the likes of which we have never seen.  He is motivating not only the blacks in South Carolina, but whites in Iowa and young people all over the country.  And if his speech last night is any indication, he may have just learned how to fend off the slash and burn politics of the Clintons without taking anything away from his own lofty vision.  The speech is posted below, but one of the most brilliant rhetorical moments was this one:

“The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.

It’s about the past versus the future.

It’s about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today, or whether we reach for a politics of common sense, and innovation – a shared sacrifice and shared prosperity.”

This is another indication that the Obama campaign is not operating with the old playbook.  They are thinking in a completely different way, one that sees possibility where so many see division and partisanship.  Just listen:


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