The Obama ground game was "awesome," literally. I remain a registered Democrat. Today, I got two calls from the Obama campaign asking me if I was voting. AND, half an hour before the polls closed, an Obama worker actually knocked at my door, backed up by a vehicle with the engine running. The organization was amazing. Just to remind you, this is in Athens, Ohio! No one can deny that this man was a champion campaigner with a devoted, efficient backing.
Yet I am struck that so many different people see different Obamas. (See. e.g., some of the responses to my last blog.) For some, he is the social revolutionary who will a) restore smokestack America and its well-paying jobs; b) give us all low-cost, or no-cost, health insurance paid for by taxes on a few thousand billionaires; c) end free trade; d) extend free trade; e) soak Wall Street; f) encourage investment, etc., etc. His voting and rhetorical records might seem to be a good indication of his attentions, but commentators tell us not to take them seriously. Initial reactions display such widespread gratification at the election of America's first African-American president that one might think that was the only important thing about this election. Question marks about the direction of his presidency loom large.
The Ayers, Wright, and Rashid Khalidi associations were largely opportunistic affinities on the part of an ambitious young man. I still think they were deplorable, but they would not have happened but for the evolution of the Chicago machine. Daley 1.0, as led by the original Richard J., was largely an organization of traditional white ethnics with the black population brought along in a trailing role by social benefits and patronage. Daley 2.0, under Ritchie's leadership, has compensated for the decline of old-time ethnic solidarity by constructing a contemporary version of "popular front" politics that included neo-New Leftists, black militants, and even Palestinian anti-Zionist advocates. I saw Khalidi call in effect for the destruction of Israel at a conference I attended years ago. He dismayed me then and still does. I'm not Jewish, believe that Israel is not without sin, but still think the country is on balance an example of democratic progress in the Middle East.
From my point of view, the transformation of the Daley organization into a 60s Popular Front, with room for Weathermen bombers, old Black Panthers, and Israel-haters are revelatory of the moral confusion of post-Vietnam American liberalism.
Who IS the real BHO? I'm damned if I know, but I feel that I can only take him and his record at face value. No one can deny, however, that he ran a helluva of a campaign and is as charismatic a figure as we've seen in American politics for a long time. Let's hope for the best.