BY NATHAN RILEY | The Democrats keep getting better and better.
Obama's victory remarks in Iowa represented the best speech by a Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Democrats must persuade the voters that taking care of each other is a worthy cause. In 2004, the Republican appeals to free enterprise, striving to get rich, and religiosity left the Democrats speechless. They could not present a forcible appeal for better working conditions, universal access to health care, or a social safety net. It was all wonk and no fervor.
Obama has solved that problem. When he talks of building “a coalition for change that stretches through red states and blue states,” of choosing “hope over fear, unity over division,” he creates images as powerful as the ones that Ronald Reagan used to rout Democrats.
In other speeches, Obama has given the American Dream a new content that will help Democrats. The American Dream had become a Republican lodestone; everyone wants to be rich and taxes make you poor.
Not so said Obama.
“What is unique about America is that we want these dreams for more than ourselves – we want them for each other.”
It was neatly stated and persuasive.
The people who pay closest attention are the other candidates and their staffs, and New Hampshire showed that Hillary had heard. She is no longer making the narrow distinctions that have failed her miserably – i.e., I didn't vote for the war, I voted to make a threat to help with the diplomacy. Clinton opened up and talked to the American people; the results were wonderful. She became vivacious and people liked her. She left New Hampshire more self-assured and confident.
In her New Hampshire victory speech, the New York senator explained, “I listened to you and in the process I found my voice.”
This is the new Hillary.
“The oil companies, the drug companies, the health insurance companies, the predatory student loan companies have had seven years of a president who stands up for them. It's time we had a president who stands up for all of you. I intend to be that president.”
She emphasized the struggles of people working two jobs to pay the bills, of families whose homes are in foreclosure. It is the voice of a campaigner who has listened to John Edwards, who has watched Barack Obama inspire the young and the well-educated.
What we are seeing is a developing Democratic Party unity that promises to bring enthusiasm to the general election campaign. A momentum that won't be stopped by far-fetched negative campaigns. A cause that isn't going to be sidetracked by scandals or debates over gay marriage. It is the cause of restoring the social safety net to the United States and getting the country back on track.
The Democrats are casting a wide net, reaching out to all Americans. The gay community cannot expect automatic victories. We must stay active and make our needs known. The last time the Clintons ran the country they were outmaneuvered and accepted Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In the drive to find church-going black votes in South Carolina, Barack Obama engaged the support of a gospel singer who claims to be an ex-gay and equates homosexuality with child molestation.
Nobody said it would be easy.
But Hillary Clinton fought against the enormous wave of enthusiasm that Obama brought to New Hampshire and proved sisterhood is powerful. The gay community will have to struggle mightily to ensure its seat at the victory table.
But it is a friendly struggle. Democrats accept the notion that LGBT Americans should enjoy full participation, even if they don't always agree with us on the specifics. The bottom line is that gay America has a large group of allied senators and representatives who come at our issues as willing supporters. From this base, real progress is possible.