Monday, August 25, 2008

8 Short Years

Much has been made, and rightly so, of Barack Obama's meteoric rise in Democratic politics. We all know where he was at the last Democratic National Convention in Boston, delivering a stirring keynote address as a Senate candidate.

But few know where he was at the convention before that, the 2000 DNC in Los Angeles. Today, I heard a reporter from the New Yorker detail Obama's 2000 convention experience on NPR. It's a time he's called a low point in his life.

Back in the summer of 2000, Barack Obama was a failed Congressional candidate. He'd run against incumbent and former Black Panther Bobby Rush, and was soundly defeated-- 62%- 31%-- in the Democratic primary.

His marriage to wife Michelle was also on the rocks. She hadn't wanted him to run in the first place, they were short on money and looking to expand their family.

After his trouncing, Obama seriously considered giving up on politics. He asked friends for advice, and they suggested he fly out to LA and try to network at the Democratic National Convention. Short on money, Obama found a cheap ticket on Southwest and headed to LA with big dreams.

But like so many others who make that trip, things didn't go as planned. When he landed he tried to rent a car, but his credit card was rejected. After hours of pleading and negotiating he was given a break-- they took a check. He showed up at the Staples Center, but couldn't gain the credentials to get in.

So he stood outside, waiting to recognize someone who would bring him inside. Meanwhile, most of the very people who will nominate him for president this week celebrated. He was 39 years old, and his political future looked uncertain at best.

But Obama didn't give up. He held onto his seat in the Illinois Senate, and won the primary to succeed retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald in 2004. Locked in a tight battle with investment banker Republican Jack Ryan, Obama was tapped to deliver the keynote address of the event he was shut out of just four years earlier. When scandal engulfed the Ryan campaign, Obama had a cakewalk in his November election, garnering 70% of the vote.

This time around, after dismantling the greatest Democratic political machine in a generation, Barack Obama won't need credentials to get into the DNC.

And I'm guessing that his rent-a-car will be long, black and paid for.

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