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Even if he doesn't win, we'll never be the same

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  • Charles C. Primas
    June 7, 2008 Eugene Robinson Even if he doesn t win, we ll never be the same http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080607/OPINION12/806070
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 8, 2008
      June 7, 2008

      Eugene Robinson

      Even if he doesn't win, we'll never be the same


      There will be plenty of time to chart Barack Obama's attempt to navigate a
      course between the exigencies of the old politics and the promise of the
      new, between yesterday and tomorrow, youth and experience, black and white.
      For now, take a moment to consider the mind-bending improbability of what
      just happened.

      A young black first-term senator has won a marathon of primaries and
      caucuses to become the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. To
      reach this point, he had to do more than outduel the party's most powerful
      and resourceful political machine. He also had to defy, and ultimately
      defeat, 389 years of history.

      It was in 1619 that the first Africans were brought in chains to these
      shores, landing in Jamestown, Va. Ever since -- through the War of
      Independence, the abolitionist movement, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim
      Crow, the great migration to Northern cities and the civil rights struggle
      -- race has been one of the great themes running through our nation's

      Watching Obama give his speech Tuesday night marking the end of the primary
      season and the beginning of the general election campaign, I thought back to
      a time when brave men and women, both black and white, put their lives on
      the line to ensure that African-Americans even had the right to vote, let
      alone run for office.

      Tiresome, isn't it? All this recounting of unpleasant history, I mean.
      Wouldn't it be great if we could all just move on? Bear with me, though,
      because this is how we get to the point where, as Obama's young supporters
      like to chant, "race doesn't matter." No one will be happier than I will be
      when we reach that promised land. But we aren't there yet.

      This is from an e-mail I received from an Obama volunteer in Pennsylvania:
      "We've been called 'N-lovers,' Obama's been called the 'Anti-Christ,' our
      signs have been burned in the streets during a parade, our volunteers have
      been harassed physically, or with racial slurs -- it's been unreal."

      Yet the amazing thing isn't that there were instances of overt, old-style
      racism during this campaign, it's that there were so few. The amazing thing
      is that so many Americans have been willing to accept -- or, indeed, reject
      -- Obama based on his qualifications and his ideas, not on his race.

      When historians and political scientists write books about this
      extraordinary campaign season, surely they will seek to assess what impact
      Obama's race had on his prospects. But they will also devote volumes to
      exploring how he put together a fundraising apparatus that generated
      undreamed amounts of cash, and to how his organization drew so many new
      voters into the process, and to how his young supporters made use of
      social-networking Web sites, and to how his delegate-counting team managed
      to consistently outthink and outhustle everyone else.

      Will Americans take the final step and elect Obama as president? We'll find
      out soon enough. At the moment, to tell the truth, I don't care. Whether
      Obama wins or loses, history has been made this year. Now -- after 389 long
      years -- it's safe to say that this nation will never be the same.



      -Charles C. Primas

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