Senator Barack Obama is now the Democratic Party’s candidate for the presidency of the United States. Whether you are going to vote for him or not, this is an incredible moment for the grand experiment that is the United States of America.
Here is a comparatively young man (47), a person of color (his father was a Kenyan), who has risen by virtue of his impressive intelligence and skills to being one step away from the pinnacle of success in American political life.
It is indeed fitting, and even poetic, that Senator Obama will give his acceptance speech on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (August 28, 1963).
Senator Obama’s nomination is a tremendously encouraging sign that the country has made real, substantial progress toward realizing Dr. King’s dream. We are not all the way there, but we have traveled a long way from the Birmingham jail and the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
On another front, Senator Obama’s nomination is also encouraging. Since 1980 there has been a disturbing, bipartisan, dynastic trend in American presidential politics. Since 1980, there has been either a Bush or a Clinton on the presidential ticket on either the Republican or Democratic ticket in every presidential election (28 years and 7 elections). That has never happened in any other era of American history.
Obama’s nomination and selection of Joe Biden as his running mate breaks that cycle. Regardless of your politics, that has to be a good thing for government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Family dynasties, even elected ones, are not good for democracy.
However, if John F. Kennedy Jr. had not died tragically in a plane crash on July 16, 1999, I believe he would be the Democratic Party’s nominee this year. If he had not died, John F. Kennedy, Jr., would, in all likelihood, have been elected Senator from New York in 2000, (instead of Hilary Clinton) and reelected in a landslide in 2006. I believe he would have been an unstoppable force for all kinds of national “unfinished business” (in light of his father’s presidency having been cut so tragically short). The temptation to restore “Camelot” would have proven irresistible.
Furthermore, the Republicans would have had virtually no chance to defeat him and he would have swept to victory in November and would have taken the oath of office Jan. 20, 2009 at the age of 48.