Lots of commentary and analysis on the results of the Iowa caucuses -- especially on the Democratic side.
David Brooks's column today is frankly admiring of Obama's accomplishment:
I’ve been through election nights that brought a political earthquake to the country. I’ve never been through an election night that brought two.
Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucuses. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel moved by this. An African-American man wins a closely fought campaign in a pivotal state. He beats two strong opponents, including the mighty Clinton machine. He does it in a system that favors rural voters. He does it by getting young voters to come out to the caucuses.
This is a huge moment. It’s one of those times when a movement that seemed ethereal and idealistic became a reality and took on political substance.
I never thought I'd say this about anything written by David Brooks, but you should read the whole thing.
A lot of people are noticing, and writing, the obvious (which doesn't mean it isn't a point worth making) -- that Obama's win is a clear statement of support for change over experience. Although Charles Peters makes a convincing case that it's too simplistic to cast the choice that way:
People who complain that Barack Obama lacks experience must be unaware of his legislative achievements. One reason these accomplishments are unfamiliar is that the media have not devoted enough attention to Obama's bills and the effort required to pass them, ignoring impressive, hard evidence of his character and ability.
Since most of Obama's legislation was enacted in Illinois, most of the evidence is found there -- and it has been largely ignored by the media in a kind of Washington snobbery that assumes state legislatures are not to be taken seriously. (Another factor is reporters' fascination with the horse race at the expense of substance that they assume is boring, a fascination that despite being ridiculed for years continues to dominate political journalism.)
Consider a bill into which Obama clearly put his heart and soul. The problem he wanted to address was that too many confessions, rather than being voluntary, were coerced -- by beating the daylights out of the accused.
Obama proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped.
This seemed likely to stop the beatings, but the bill itself aroused immediate opposition. There were Republicans who were automatically tough on crime and Democrats who feared being thought soft on crime. There were death penalty abolitionists, some of whom worried that Obama's bill, by preventing the execution of innocents, would deprive them of their best argument. Vigorous opposition came from the police, too many of whom had become accustomed to using muscle to "solve" crimes. And the incoming governor, Rod Blagojevich, announced that he was against it.
Obama had his work cut out for him.
He responded with an all-out campaign of cajolery. It had not been easy for a Harvard man to become a regular guy to his colleagues. Obama had managed to do so by playing basketball and poker with them and, most of all, by listening to their concerns. Even Republicans came to respect him. One Republican state senator, Kirk Dillard, has said that "Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics."
The police proved to be Obama's toughest opponent. Legislators tend to quail when cops say things like, "This means we won't be able to protect your children." The police tried to limit the videotaping to confessions, but Obama, knowing that the beatings were most likely to occur during questioning, fought -- successfully -- to keep interrogations included in the required videotaping.
By showing officers that he shared many of their concerns, even going so far as to help pass other legislation they wanted, he was able to quiet the fears of many.
Obama proved persuasive enough that the bill passed both houses of the legislature, the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Then he talked Blagojevich into signing the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.
It sure would be nice to believe that Obama really is -- as the story of this bill makes him sound -- a uniter rather than a divider. We've all been burned many more times than once and are correspondingly shy. Still... there must be something there that's genuine, because how else did he get all those students and young and new voters to break the apathy habit and come out and vote for him?
Atrios pretty much expresses what I'm feeling:
In all my dealings with Obama people, as well as the man himself, there's always been this sense that they're constantly telling people, "Trust us. We've thought this through. We know what we're doing. It'll work. Yes we understand that you're uncomfortable with this, or that you think it's wrong, but really we know what we're doing."
And then those of us in the cheap seats think that there's no way all of those new/young voters show up to vote in Iowa, that Obama's inclusive rhetoric doesn't have the appeal he imagines, etc.. etc... And then he pulls it off. Maybe he does know what he's doing.
And here's the other thing. As I said to a co-worker today: Wouldn't it be soooo lovely to have a president who's smart, again? Just the thought makes me feel giddy.