Obama’s Landmark Bid
Whether or not Barack Obama prevails at the polls next Tuesday is but another matter. The 47 year old ‘white’ African-American’s name is already engraved in the hallowed chapters of history.
He is an African-American not only because he is black. His biological father, a senior Kenyan government economist was born and brought up in a dusty but now famous western Kenya village called Kogelo.
He is white because his mother was, but he also lived the life of a white child (in Hawaii of all places); prestigious schools, first African-American president of the Harvard law preview.
Unlike many African-Americans, he was not a descendant of slaves, and did not emulate the guns and drugs gangster life of Harlem neighbourhoods.
Nor did he strive to become the typical African-American politician, preaching for speech making, always acting like a man against the system instead of one inside the establishment.
Obama’s rise from a mishmash childhood and complex genetic mix to the biggest political stage in the US, could pass for many frequent turns of luck. That is said at the peril of denying Barrack the man his due.
Mary, Obama’s classmate at Primary School 1 in Indonesia told the BBC about how he had seemed to have big ambitions even at a young age.
“At that time, here in Indonesia, all the parents pushed their kids: ‘You have to become a doctor’ or ‘You have to become an engineer’,” Mary said.
“But he wrote that he’d like to be a president. So we thought, ‘Oh, in your dreams!’” Well, going by the polls, the public mood and world expectation, the man might be the next John F. Kennedy.
At the prestigious Harvard Law School he rose to the peak of the Harvard law review. He began to display the political acumen in him, quietly but methodically gaining the confidence and trust of groups of conflicting ideals.
The black guy who was not forceful in defending civil rights, keen to seek consensus, process his views in an eloquent and persuasive manner.” Like others, she was struck by his ability to entertain the ideas of opponents.
“He spoke with a kind of ability to rise above the conversation and summarise it and reframe it. There was a maturity he brought to the discussion,” says Martha Minow, now a Harvard professor.
His political career reads like a series of fortunate events, as a Washington Post article put it. Right from his entry into the Illinois state senate, his failed bid for a US congress seat eventually led him to stand for and win a senate seat. It also gave him the opportunity to star at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
“There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America -- there is the United States of America,” Obama said. When he saw his moment, he seized it with both hands.
Perhaps his party had wanted only an impressive character to win more votes for John Kerry’s presidential bid. It got more than it had bargained for. It bore a confident, calm and cool politician.
That evening, on the convention floor, loud whispers of “future presidential candidate” began to spread.
The man’s mettle as a credible politician became fully realised during the highly publicised mammoth tussle for the Democratic ticket, with Hillary Clinton.
Apart from being a New York senator, Hillary was also a former first lady and the wife of the then bonafide leader of the Democratic Party, former president Bill Clinton.
It had been a foregone conclusion that Hillary was focusing more on the election than on any person who would challenge her for the party’s ticket.
The efficient community organiser, the cross over politician, the internet donor magnet, knocked the former first lady off her perch, coming tops.
Then, the McCain hate tactics campaign that fell apart as soon as it got onto the road. The old Karl Rovian tactics of playing dirty became obsolete in the face of a new attractive, exciting face, devoid of typical stereotypes.
Money was no longer the problem. The problem became in which Republican state to spend it. Even Joe the fake plumber can only accuse him of something as absurd as ‘Socialism’ in this 21st Century.
As we speak today, the battle ground states, traditional states where none of the two major parties have fought over for a long time, now has shifted to the column of the US map which is more accustomed to being red, Republican.
Perhaps the last chapter of this landmark campaign will unfold on the morning of November 5th, when the major American broadcasting states can confidently call 2008.
We wait and see.