It's... a very good thing to have a viable politician who's not just "black" (by American standards) but has used cocaine, has a weird name, has Muslim family members, and has dated white women -- just as it was a good thing to have a president like Clinton who everyone knew had smoked pot and cheated on his wife. The forces of reaction have always counted on using such things to destroy anyone who gets in their way. If American society is becoming less insane in these areas and that tool is no longer available to reactionaries, it's a small but real step forward.
Meanwhile, Ezra Klein at The American Prospect can barely contain his enthusiasm following Obama's win, gushing:
Obama's finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don't even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. The other great leaders I've heard guide us towards a better politics, but Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves, to the place where America exists as a glittering ideal, and where we, its honored inhabitants, seem capable of achieving it, and thus of sharing in its meaning and transcendence.
American liberals criticize the cult of personality surrounding Ronald Reagan, and to a lesser extent George W. Bush, but many seem to fall over themselves when a "great communicator" on their side (the Blue Team) regurgitates the same empty platitudes and "the American dream" claptrap they rightly criticize when it occurs on the other side (the Red Team).
As Dennis Perrin notes in response to Klein's piece:
There are few things more nauseating than American liberals giddy over politicians. Their worst features rise to the surface and emit an acrid stench, perfume to the faithful, noxious to the rest. Saint Obama's victory in Iowa has many online libs on their knees today, hands stretched upward to the light, dopey gleam on their faces, tongues wagging uncontrollably.
As for the Republican side, Texas Congressman Ron Paul pulled in 10% -- more than twice the number who voted for former "national frontrunner" Rudy Giuliani. I never thought I'd see the day when a politician who calls the United States an "empire" and refers to 19th century anarchist Lysander Spooner on national television would be able to gain even half that amount in a Republican primary, especially one held in Iowa. As you may recall, Paul got into a spat with Giuliani earlier this year in a debate hosted by Fox News over the root causes of 9/11. Paul, a principled non-interventionist, argued that the U.S. troop presence on the Arabian peninsula and the continual bombing of Iraq throughout the 1990s played a large part in motivating the 9/11 hijackers -- a point confirmed by the 9/11 Commission Report and backed up by people such as Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA unit in charge of tracking Osama bin Laden. Naturally, Giuliani claimed to have never heard the concept of "blowback," and in true demagogic fashion, "demanded" that Paul retract his statement -- which he of course refused to do. At the time television pundits called the exchange a clear win for Giuliani that made him look "tough" in the face of the "crackpot" Ron Paul. As is so often the case with the punditocracy, however, they were wrong. Paul enjoyed tremendous exposure thanks to the exchange, which led to record-breaking fundraising for a guy most of these same pundits dismissed as "fringe," while Giuliani's campaign has crashed and burned.
It's also interesting to note that Paul spent less time than any other Republican candidate in Iowa -- even less than Giuliani, who has been trying to claim that he didn't try all that hard to do well there.
Of course, Paul's success hasn't stopped Fox News from excluding the antiwar Republican from a debate this weekend. Fox claims to only have room for five candidates -- Huckabee, Romney, Thompson, McCain, and Giuiliani -- and that they are only including those candidates who have registered double-digit support in national polls. Never mind that Paul is polling on par with Giuliani and beating Thompson in New Hampshire, and that the only actual verifiable poll -- the Iowa caucus -- showed Paul breaking into double-digits and beating one of the invited candidates; to Fox News, Paul's position on the war makes him unacceptable and "fringe," regardless of how the actual voters feel. [Insert quip regarding Fox News being "fair and balanced."]