As a rule, members of the news media are professional cynics. Their job is the collection, organization and examination of new facts. In most events, the cynical pose serves them well. Their employers, after all, are usually men and women invested in the status quo. New initiatives are to be welcomed with a skeptical eye, if at all.
All of this explains the ho-hum response of much of the news media to what was surely one of the most historic American political events of the past generation. I'm talking about the nomination of Barack Obama.
The talk of the media class has already moved on to Freddy-this, O.J.-that, Trig-this, and Ike-the-other-thing. The cynics don't get history. They've moved on. But I saw history happen two weeks ago.
On the night of Aug. 28, Denver was electric. The struggles of centuries out of serfdom, servitude, slavery and segregation had produced a new reality. The United States was poised to become the first majority European-heritage nation to elect a person of African, Native American, or Asian descent to its highest office. Another American revolution was coming into view.
But the cynics missed what was plain to see. It was visible everywhere one looked that night, so long as one looked at people's faces. Their faces said, "THIS is really happening."
Barack Obama was saying, "it's not about me, it's about you." And the crowd in Denver a crowd that genuinely looked like America made what Obama said at least half true. The other half of the story is that Obama's campaign is about Obama. That same incredibly diverse mass of Americans was united in its devotion to a single transformative figure.
History has not been kind to such people. They usually earn the enmity, if not hatred, of some elites.
The Republican Party reviles Obama for his popularity and accomplishments. He is too educated. Too good looking. Too cool. Too successful. Too measured. Too positive. In the Republican Party's America the one where whites make up 94% of the population Blacks are damned should they fail and doubly damned should they dare to succeed.
Obama is also reviled by those to the right of the Republican mainstream the Neo-Nazis who surreptitiously leafleted Denver parking lots with thousands of flyers promising a solution to the "Negro problem." And so too other Nazis Shawn Robert Adolf, Tharin Gartrell and Nathan Johnson arrested in Denver armed with sniper rifles and talking of their assassination plans.
The national news media, responsibly, has downplayed the many threats against Obama. But observant campaign watchers will note that the specter of Bobby, John and Martin, and many others before them, has been all-too-present this election cycle.
The tendency of most pundits and the political campaigns themselves is to play up false controversies of lipsticked pigs, madrassas, and magazine covers while downplaying the underlying historical storyline. In 2000 and 2004, that underlying story was strange, but not pan-historic. In 2008, history has arrived, and it's just a matter of time before the entire country wakes up and sees that.