That's the question that I think Democrats need to mull as we move forward to February 5. Do we want a leader in November who builds a broad coalition, or one whose campaign smugly derides a state like South Carolina and the victor of that state's primary by noting (with a fair amount of distortion, naturally) that Jesse Jackson won the state twice? One who flees a loss with a terse written statement, or one who competes for every vote?
I was out watching live music last night, so I've been on YouTube this morning watching Obama's speech. With each viewing, I am struck more soundly by the simple idea that this man is the natural leader of the Democratic Party.
I've also been looking at exit poll data and blogger reaction, and I have no real comment on it except that Obama clearly put together a broad coalition to generate a massive victory. Andrew Sullivan notes that Obama got more votes in Democratic Primary than McCain and Huckabee took in the GOP Primary last week, combined.
I hope that the voters of South Carolina were, in part, rejecting the poisonous strain of politics being lobbed by the Clinton campaign, particularly that which flew from the mouth of the former president.
I will note that I suspect that Hillary Clinton will lose in the southern primaries, and that I continue to believe that Barack Obama would put several southern states in play in the general election. Peeling off two or three southern states from the Republican nominee would more or less end any hope the GOP has for retaining the White House, and even if no southern states swung, I suspect the GOP would have to apply resources to places they normally take for granted.
So who do we want to lead our party in the fall? A candidate who reaches across the traditional divides of American life to tell us -- to remind us -- that we are one people united in common purpose, or a candidate who sets out to remind us at all junctures that her opponent is black?
What kind of party do we want? What kind of country do we want? What kind of dialogue do we want to participate in during the course of the next five years? These are the questions we Democrats must ask ourselves as we move on to the other 45 or so contests in this election.
I know my answer. I want to live in a better America, and I want leaders who remind us that this country is great because we, the American people, have always managed to rise above our differences when called to do so and to build something stronger and more enduring than what came before. I want to be inspired by those who understand the dream of America for the next five years, not cursing those who tarnish it.