The buzz of energy you might have felt in the air this morning wasn’t another snowstorm. Today the Barrack Obama for president campaign swoops into Milwaukee for a big rally at the Midwest Express Center. The event is beginning to feel less and less like a campaign stop and more like a coronation for the senator from Chicago.
Obama, a 46-year-old social justice lawyer from Chicago will win Wisconsin, a state whose delegates went to John Edwards four years ago — and Wisconsinites are going to feel pretty damn good about it. So will we, here at Watchdog Milwaukee
Americans don’t know what a president looks like until we elect one. Then we know. Talk about Barack Obama’s presidential chances began after his stirring speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. It was easy to shrug off then.
Many of us began looking for reasons why, despite the passion and inspiration he brought to that speech, he wouldn’t run for the Presidency. Too son. He hadn’t even begun his first term. America’s not yet ready for an African-American president. It was a pipedream. Looking back, these were all excuses and those excuses have now evaporated.
But then we looked back at one of the speakers from the 1988 Democratic convention – an empassioned Governor from the State of Arkansas presented a 32 minute address to delegates. That man was Bill Clinton and he not only won the Presidency but he went on to win a second term. 16 years later it was a young Senator from Illinois who took the podium and Obama wow’ed us.
The comparisons don’t end there between Obama and the former President. Like Bill Clinton who had the courage to tell displaced workers that their jobs were gone but he would fight for retraining money for new, better jobs, Obama recently said, “we need somebody who is going to tell the American people not just what they want to hear, but what they need to hear”. It is that courage and honesty that we need at a time when 8 years of Republican reign have thrown us into the morase of war, to a crippling national debt and to the brink of recession.
To be president is to be a dream, and Obama is living a dream before our very eyes. He envisions a different America, the one where anybody can achieve anything they want if they put their shoulders to it. We remember this place — it’s the America we heard about when we were kids, before we knew that factories rust in the snow and jobs disappear overseas. It’s the place where a community organizer working on the south side of Chicago can go to law school, get elected to the statehouse, win a U.S. Senate seat and lay claim to the presidency.
It’s a story of inspiration and fighting for your passion. Now is the time that America, that Americans, need that inspiration. Now is a time we all need that hope. We need change and we need someone willing to fight for that change.
Obama says he wants a different debate, not the same old arguments about big government and the free economy that Democrats and Republicans have been having since the late 1960’s. He believes America is going to be a better place; a different place. We believe him more than other candidates because he simply exudes it.
Obama’s primary opponent, Senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton, for all of her past work on health care, schools and womens’ issues, doesn’t bring the passion or the charisma that Obama exudes. While Clinton can legitimately argue that she has a better healthcare plan, she continues to be too hawkish on the war. We have no doubt that Clinton would make a great President and American’s are fortunate to finally have the choice between two supremely qualified individuals. But it is Obama that sparks our imagination.
Factor in Obama’s surprising strong showing in Iowa and convincing win in Minnesota, and the choice is easy for Wisconsin. Democrats can’t win the presidency without flexing their muscles in the upper Midwest and in Mideast states like Pennsylvania, where the economy has long been the number one issue. Winning Ohio this time would certainly help. It is in these states where Obama is proving strongest.
And why shouldn’t Obama succeed in the Midwest? He spent most of his professional career working as a community organizer and attorney in Chicago’s south side, before representing those areas in the Illinois legislature. For Milwaukeeans and other denizens of the urban rust belt, Obama offers the rarest of opportunities in a presidential election: A chance to elect one of our own. It hasn’t happened in more than a century.
This column was co-written by Jim McGuigan and John-david Morgan. Morgan was the publisher and editor of The Press, a news and arts monthly, between 2000 and 2003.