Can Obama Do It?

I am so pleased to watch Barack and Hillary compete to win the hearts and minds of the democratic voter (and me). Barack said last night in his victory speech:

After four great contests in every corner of this country, we have the
most votes, the most delegates, and the most diverse coalition of
Americans we’ve seen in a long, long time.

That last part is one of the things I am watching closely. Can Barack cross over? Because if he does, he will be a very difficult candidate to beat this fall.

Caroline Kennedy says this in her endorsement of Barack in the Times this morning.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me
that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have
found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a
new generation of Americans.

Caroline is a few years older than me but we are of the same generation and I completely agree with her on that point. I agreed with Bill Clinton’s policies and liked him as a president, but he never inspired me. And the rest of the people who have run this country in my adulthood have simply annoyed me.

So I am hoping that Barack can win me over. More than that, I am hoping he can win over our country. Can he do it?

I think Florida and New York are going to be the big tests. We saw race rear its ugly head in South Carolina and I think Barack came out looking better than the Clintons in that catfight.

Florida is where we’ll see the religion issue come to the forefront. This piece by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post is an example of what’s coming. It links Obama to Farrakhan via his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. I am sure this is going to be an issue in Florida and New York. Jewish voters are not going to like the sound of Farrakhan name being used in the same sentence as Barack’s.

It bothers me a bit that our political system continues to use race and religion as wedges to drive people apart. But at the same time this is an opportunity for Barack to show us what he’s made of. Can he handle this issue correctly and win over the jewish people of Florida and New York?

Barack said last night:

And what we’ve seen in these last weeks is that we’re also up against
forces that are not the fault of any one campaign, but feed the habits
that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation. It’s the
politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon. A
politics that tells us that we have to think, act, and even vote within
the confines of the categories that supposedly define us.

I think those forces will be at work from now until the election is over in November. And the only way Obama will win is if he can navigate these issues and in doing so put them to rest. If he does that, he will indeed be Presidential material. It will be interesting to watch. I am rooting for him.