Watching the victory, and opposite of victory speeches as the Wisconsin primary results roll in —and the post-vote bloviating begins —here's what struck me:
Barack Obama didn't just take Wisconsin from Hillary Clinton. He didn't just take the majority of so called "blue collar" voters, or very nearly half of women voters. In his lengthy yet still must hear speech, weaving increasingly specific policy promises with his now trademark discourse on audacious hope, Obama continued his slow, steady hijacking of archtypal American political identity.
Suddenly it's Obama embodying the American that was Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy. And then, without giving anyone a beat to think about it, he brought in Martin Luther King (who, after all, is also a federal holiday) and instantly lifted King to founding grandson status. And as he does it, he's retelling the American story, with a vividness that has been missing since....since forever.
And the funny thing, I believe, is that only an Obama can do it. Not even Bill Clinton can do what Obama is doing on the podium in Houston tonight. Hillary, as a white woman, talented as she is, really never had a chance.
The peculiarly American journey on race and cultural identity may have finally come full circle in the candidacy of Barack Obama. White men have always enjoyed the privilege of "putting on" Americans of any skin, class, ethnicity or gender at will, for good or ill. Whether for sincere tribute, parody, scorn or mere craven appropriation only white men had this freedom. The only limit, to a degree, was their skill. Think Davey Crockett (blood brother to the Indian). Think Jolson in blackface. Think Elvis. Think Clinton (Bill, not Hil) bitch-slapping Sistah Souljah.
Obama is still strongly advised against channeling Lyndon Johnson and throwing his balls around. But he's all over the Kennedy-Roosevelt persona, while still bringing more truth to the newly exalted black preacher archetype than Bill ever could.
And if Bill doesn't watch out, Obama may overtake Bill's "good ole' boy makes the Ivys but remembers where he came from" trope while Bill is still in the dressing room, blacking up.