As June begins, the Democratic primary season is finally drawing to a close. Officially, it lasted five months; in reality, the contest has been going on for a year and a half. At press time, it appeared almost certain who the party’s presidential contender will be. That it’s not the candidate who thought the race would be over by February is a victory for the primary process. And that the winner is Barack Obama is, by any standard, a truly remarkable feat.
When I saw Obama speak at Washington Square in late September of last year, I really didn’t think he would pull it off. He was charismatic, of course, but he seemed a bit blasé—it was almost as if he really didn’t think he could topple the House of Clinton, either. But at the same time, his campaign was fully in motion on the ground. By following up on Howard Dean’s strategy of making the Democrats compete in all 50 states, and through superior mobilization of the party’s activist base, the Obama forces made it happen from below. The Clinton campaign’s attempt, beginning in South Carolina, to play the race card only served to strengthen Obama’s hand. From that point on, Hillary proved that if nothing else, she will not go down without a fight.
In the end, only one real issue—Hillary’s support for the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq—separated the two candidates, but it made all the difference. Without his opposition to the war, Obama’s signature campaign slogan—“Change you can believe in”—would not have worked. But to have opposed the war in 2003 is one thing, while ending it in 2008 is another. Obama is about to do battle with a warmonger who will have the full backing of the war machine. It’s the job of all those who support him to make sure that getting out of Iraq stays at the center of Obama’s fall campaign.