Obama Wins Iowa: Why Everyone Has a Reason to Celebrate

Even if your candidate didn't win on Thursday, you have reason to celebrate. We all do. Barack Obama's stirring victory in Iowa -- down home, folksy, 92 percent white Iowa -- says a lot about America.
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Even if your candidate didn't win tonight, you have reason to celebrate. We all do.

Barack Obama's stirring victory in Iowa -- down home, folksy, farm-fed, Midwestern, and 92 percent white Iowa -- says a lot about America, and also about the current mindset of the American voter.

Because tonight voters decided that they didn't want to look back. They wanted to look into the future -- as if a country exhausted by the last seven years wanted to recapture its youth.

Bush's re-election in 2004 was a monument to the power of fear and fear-mongering. Be Very Afraid was Bush/Cheney's Plans A through Z. The only card in the Rove-dealt deck. And it worked. America, its vision distorted by the mushroom clouds conjured by Bush and Cheney, made a collective sprint to the bomb shelters in our minds, our lizard brains responding to fear rather than hope.

And the Clintons -- their Hillary-as-incumbent-strategy sputtering -- followed the Bush blueprint in Iowa and played the fear card again and again and again.

Be afraid of Obama, they warned us. Be afraid of something new, something different. He might meet with our enemies. His middle name is Hussein. He went to a madrassa school. A vote for him would be like rolling the dice, the former president said on Charlie Rose.

And the people of Iowa heard him, and chose to roll the dice.

Obama's win might not have legs. Hope could give way to fear once again. But, for tonight at least, it holds a mirror up to the face of America, and we can look at ourselves with pride. This is the kind of country America was meant to be, even if you are for Clinton or Edwards -- or even Huckabee or Giuliani.

It's the kind of country we've always imagined ourselves being -- even if in the last seven years we fell horribly short: a young country, an optimistic country, a forward-looking country, a country not afraid to take risks or to dream big.

Bill Clinton has privately told friends that if Hillary didn't win, it would be because of the two weeks that followed her shaky performance in the Philadelphia debate.

But it wasn't those two weeks. Indeed, if we were to pinpoint one decisive moment, it would be Bill Clinton on Charlie Rose, arrogant and entitled, dismissive and fear-mongering. And then Bill Clinton giving us a refresher course in '90s-style truth-twisting and obfuscation -- making stuff up about always having been against the war, and about Hillary having always been for every good decision during his presidency and against every bad one, from Ireland to Sarajevo to Rwanda.

So voters in Iowa remembered the past and decided that they didn't want to go back. They wanted to move ahead. Even if that meant rolling the dice.

Again, this moment may not last. But, for tonight, I am going to savor it -- and cross my fingers that it may stand as the day that fear as a winning political tactic died. Killed by an "unlikely" candidate -- as Obama called himself again and again -- who seized the moment, and reminded America of its youth and the optimism it longs to recapture.

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