Roughly 9,000 Democrats pack into Veterans Memorial Auditorium on a chilly mid-November night in Des Moines, Iowa. The attendees of the annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner percolate with excitement, wildly waving banners and cheering loudly as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announces the last name on the program: “My fellow Democrats, please welcome the next president of the United States … Barack Obama.”
Greeted by thunderous applause, pumping fists, and deafening chants, the U.S. senator from Illinois makes his way to center stage, pressing the flesh of admirers young and old. This “six-foot-one force for change,” as he was described this evening, is about to make an 18-minute speech that promises to be one of his most significant. The fundraiser, hosted by the Iowa Democratic Party, is a must-attend event for any Democrat seeking to occupy the White House—especially since state caucuses on Jan. 3 launch the presidential primary season.
As he quiets the crowd to share his vision of America under an Obama administration, the energy in the auditorium is palpable. “We are in a defining moment in our history. Our nation is at war. The planet is in peril. The dream that so many generations fought for feels as if it’s slowly slipping away. We are working harder for less. We’ve never paid more for healthcare or for college. It’s harder to save, and it’s harder to retire. And most of all, we’ve lost faith that our leaders can or will do anything about it.”
As he continues his speech, passion consumes his voice. He jabs the air with his finger as he makes each point. “And it is because of these failures that we not only have a moment of great challenge but also a moment of great opportunity. We have a chance to bring the country together in a new majority, to finally tackle problems that George Bush made far worse but that had festered long before George Bush ever took office—problems talked about year after year after year after year.”
He tells the party activists that “the same old Washington textbook campaigns just won’t do in this election” and that “telling the American people what we think they want to hear instead of telling the American people what they need to hear” will no longer be acceptable.
The audience punctuates his speech with louder applause and chants of: “Obama … Obama … Obama.”
In the remaining minutes, Obama discusses the planks of his platform: his plans to vigilantly fight for workers, help the 47 million Americans without healthcare benefits, enable children to gain a quality education, and end the war in Iraq.
“I don’t want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights we had in the 1990s. I don’t want to pit red America against blue America. I want to be the president of the United States of America.”
Pundits and partisans have called the 2008 presidential election one of the most important in modern history. This time, it’s not just hype; the campaign issues