While attending DNC ’08, I stopped by the Specialty Media Lounge hosted by Microsoft — sort of an office away from office for political journalists. As you can imagine, young tech-oriented journalists were typing seemingly 150 words per minute, filing reports and writing blogs on the day’s events.
As I talked with my colleagues about the night’s upcoming events, I spotted two veteran old-school political columnists Dwayne Wickham of USA Today and Les Payne, of Newsday. Wickham and Payne have been writing about blacks and politics for the past three decades. In fact, Dwayne has written for Black Enterprise for our Washington page.
Of course, our conversation focused on convention highlights such as Michelle Obama’s speech, the attempts to sway more Clinton loyalists and whether by week’s end, the convention will give Obama and the Democrats the bounce their looking for– and need.
Dwayne said the convention offered an unique opportunity to put this political journey into a historical context. Obama’s run represents the evolution of black politics. Well over a century ago, he said black abolitionist and civil rights advocate Frederick Douglass had a visible presence at a presidential convention. And Michelle Obama’s dynamic speech of family and duty represented the spirit of such figures from Sojourner Truth to Ida B. Wells, the legendary journalist who fought against political disenfrachisement. Those moments led to greater historical conquests for empowerment including the presidential candidacies of late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, current NAACP head Julian Bond, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.
The Obamas are following in that groundbreaking tradition. But they are, at the same time, writing a bold, new chapter. In their primary victories and at the DNC convention, they are demonstrating that African Americans can no longer be on the sidelines of American politics. They, as Dwayne observed, are part of the new mainstream. Their story has been communicated to the masses of the nation as an American story — not a black American story. But we must realize that our stories have always been American stories.
Les, as usual, turned his attention to strategy and how the Obama campaign must use this event to define change for all Americans and unite the party. Most important, he will have to get Joe Biden and his team in attack mode against the McCain Machine. By winning the election, he says, this political evolution will be complete.