I was into Barack Obama before he was big.
Sort of like those tiresome twats who try to impress you by telling you they had heard of that band before they'd even released a single, let alone sold out Wembley, right? To push the comparison I'd imagine that about as many people have claimed that they saw the Sex Pistols play the 100 club as say they watched Obama speaking to the Democratic Convention in 2004. But, believe it or not, I actually was sad enough to be sat at home, age 14, watching the whole damn thing (or as much of it as I could bear) on the BBC.
For the most part it was a shoddy, shambolic affair devoid of vigour and with only flashes of soul. I recall a blind black man asking the crowd who the name of their candidate was again and again, an effective rhetorical tool twinned with a pathetic presidential possibility. I recall one of the junior members of the shattered Kennedy clan who would never reach the pinnacles reached by his predeccessors speak of the environment at several hundred miles an hour, agitating frantically that the economy could be reconciled with his vision. It would be a number of years before the left would finally seize the agenda, led towards the light by that most unlikely visionary, Al Gore, and then only in ascending to eschatological terms. This valiant effort was performed by a lightweight and sunk without a trace. And these were only the ones which I can remember. Or rather, they are the only ones which I can remember.
To run against Bush yet lose is a remarkable achievement, but anyone who watched their conference would see how an outfit like the Democrats could pull it off with ease.
But that lone, shining exception was a man with a funny sounding foreign name (this was before I knew that his middle was the outright threatening, blatantly connotation ladened 'Hussein') of a mixed race. His speech was as firm as the former Kennedy, but far broader, covering a broad scope and filling the audience with a strange mood that no other speaking during those days managed. It was delivered in a fashion which simply begged the question: why is this man not running? Why were the Democrats not taking on Bush with their best? Because he was a junior figure was, of course, the immediate response. Who had heard of him? 'Or of Kerry?', came the reply. The real reason that this fellow stood no chance was that apparently even running someone from the wrong part of the country wasn't on. Running someone from the wrong race would result in the already mangled Dems being blown out of the ocean.
And yet, and yet...
I did back Obama throughout the primaries, for all the good that the support of somebody upon the wrong side of the Altantic could do for him. I recall a conversation with my brother around a year ago where he resisted the notion of Obama standing a chance with the assertion that a Clinton-Giuliani face-off seemed the most likely, and most appropriate outcome. I was at that stage terrified that after eight years of Bush the choice would be between a cringing leftist who cowers before the right like an albino before the sun and a neo-conservative thug who was compensating for his sane domestic policies by promosing upping the bloodshed to a scale that could fill the Tigris.
Bleak times, now past us.
The theocrats, the deranged former Trotskyite ideologues with their blood thirst and the Cheneyists are all enjoying their last two months at the wheel of a superpower. The whimering left have been defenstrated by the Dems. The new order has arisen, and although it seems to be rich with irksome nationalism (be it American Exceptionalism or forthright Zionism) the situation has improved by a degree of fathoms. Even if not yet above the surface we are tearing through the shallows. We have shifted from some horrific far-left caricature bought to squirming, wretched reality to an episode of the West Wing.
And for the first time in my life I saw television screens displaying America, with the crowds of jubiliant revellers amassing and bound not to rest that night, and thought this is the place to be.
Might it pass? No question. But for the time being I shall remember this: that four year promise has been made flesh, that eight year spasm is a horror of the past. For the time being I shall rejoice.