It's no secret I'm a big "West Wing" fan. I'll watch Martin Sheen and his castmates speak the words that Aaron Sorkin wrote, and yearn to hear voices that noble, and that inspiring, in real life from real politicians. It gives me hope that there are people working in government who follow their hearts to work for a better world for all Americans, it keeps me from getting too cynical, and distrusting totally everyone in public office. My bullshit detector regularly goes off hearing idealogues of both parties--besides the obvious GOP blowhards, my own two US Senators rank near the top of the list. I've been looking for people who don't. In the early presidential primary races, I found one in Howard Dean. Tonight, I found another one in Barack Obama.
Living out in California, I don't easily hear a lot about politics back home in Illinois. I heard some low mumbling on IRC from friends back there that Peter Fitzgerald wasn't running for reelection to the Senate. The then-Republican candidate only rang a bell 'cause he shares a name with a Tom Clancy character. The only reason I heard much more about him was because Democrats and Illinois media had gone digging into the terms of Jack Ryan's divorce settlement with
36 of D Seven of Nine his ex-wife Jeri. About Obama, his Democratic opponent, I heard absolutely nothing. White nor black, city, suburban, nor downstate, just that he had a funny name.
Sunday, it knocked me out of my seat to see the guy was giving the keynote convention address on Tuesday. Who the hell was this? You expect those speakers to be bigwigs with long records--governors, ex-presidents, current and ex-congressmen. Had he even held statewide office in Illinois? (No.)
Tonight, the state senator from the South Side stood on international television and spoke of the American Dream and of unity. "there's not a liberal America and a conservative America--there's the United States of America [...] We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America." He spoke of embracing the concerns and worries of others as his own. And he spoke of hope. He spoke well, and he spoke with inspiration.
In all likelihood, he'll win this year's Illinois senate race. The Republican Party in Illinois is in such disarray now, they can't find another serious candidate to replace Ryan. (For God's sake, they seriously asked Mike Ditka!) I look forward to seeing what he'll do in that house of government. It warms my heart to see someone from home doing good work on behalf of all of us. There is already talk in some circles that he could become the nation's first black president. I can believe that, of the man I saw take the stage tonight. Maybe I'm wrong... I occasionally tend towards over-optimism. I remember being very hopeful and optimistic the night of Bill Clinton's first inauguration, and seeing a lot of those things I hoped for wither on the vine. I could be wrong here.
But maybe I'm not. So just in case, keep an eye on Barack Obama.
EDIT: Tucker Carlson says for CNN: "He didn't say anything about the Patriot Act." Excuse me? Which part of "and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states" didn't you understand?
EDIT: Charlie Madigan says in the Tribune: "The cynics say the need for these conventions has passed, that nominations now happen early in the process and that it's just wasted time and money. I'm not so sure. It just might be that in the middle of Obama's speech, or in Teddy's, or in Howard Dean's, or Teresa Heinz Kerry's, there is some crucial resonance for the true believer, a spark that can be fanned into the kind of fire this political party is going to need if it wants to put John Kerry in the White House."
That's exactly the spark I got tonight. I'm about as excited about Kerry as I was before. Not my first choice, but I can live with him. But I am more excited about the future than I was before.