“We won north, we won south and we won in between,” Obama told a roaring crowd, referring to his victories over Washington and Nebraska. “The Democratic Party must stand for change, not change as a slogan, change we can believe in.”
To deafening cheers Obama, 46, hammered home to party activists that he was the candidate of change, as he laid claim to the Democratic Party’s nomination and down the track the presidency.
Tomorrow’s contests have been dubbed the Potomac Primary, Obama, bidding to be the first black president, is expected to do well in tomorrow’s vote due to the large African-American population in the region.
Hillary Clinton was seen as the inevitable Democratic nominee. She has run a strong campaign, and been an impressive candidate, but much has changed in a short time. Instead of finding a clear path to the White House, has run into the rather extraordinary movement set in motion by Barack Obama.
In reflecting on all of this, I am reminded of a haunting line in one of Bob Dylan’s more memorable songs from the 1960s (Ballad of a Thin Man) It was written in the midst of the upheavals of that period, as the civil rights and anti-war movements and the just-dawning cultural revolution were converging into a social movement.
What is clear now, months later, is that the threads of Obama’s appeal and inspiration, woven together, spring from a powerful philosophy of change that has resonated across generational lines.
It is a philosophy of redemptive self-empowerment that calls for collective action to recognise, address and resolve long-standing social problems – in Obama’s words, “to heal the nation”.
For Obama, change will not come from the top-down. Winning an election, by itself, is not enough, since it only provides leadership with a fraction of the leverage needed to make fundamental change.
When Obama says, “We have been waiting for so long for the time when we could finally expect more from our politics, when we could give more of ourselves and feel truly invested in something bigger than a candidate or cause. This is it: We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, we are the ones that we seek” – he is both empowering his supporters, and challenging them to become the instruments of radical transformation. And it has worked, at least so far.
Hundreds of thousands of volunteers have been organised, either working directly in the campaign or making calls on its behalf. Well over $100 million has been raised from over 700,000 donors. (In just 72 hours last week, $7.5 million was raised from 40,000 donors.)
The momentum that Obama has recorded is measurable, and appears to be growing. Just two and half months ago his campaign was viewed with skepticism, and dismissed.
“Once I’m elected, I want to organize a summit in the Muslim world, with all the heads of state, to have an honest discussion about ways to bridge the gap that grows every day between Muslims and the West,”
The movement he has unleashed is not focused on just winning. That is too limited and too cynical a goal for his supporters. They do not seek power for its own sake, they seek to bring about fundamental change.
This election is important, but, more than that, it is also interesting.