The polls open in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow in what is being touted as the "Potomac Primary" or the "Chesapeake Primary." Those slick little monickers are themselves indicators of the unprecedented importance of tomorrow's primary. I've been voting in Maryland for two decades now, and I can't recall a time when our primary has rated its own nickname. For the first time in memory, voters in the Old Line State have an opportunity to have a real impact on a presidential campaign. It's a pretty heady thought.
This evening K attended a rally for Barack Obama at 1st Mariner Arena in downtown Baltimore. Yesterday after church, she said that one of the reasons that she, I, and other people of our generation are so galvanized by Obama's candidacy is because of its rebuke to the conventional wisdom that says that those of us in our twenties and thirties are disaffected, disengaged, and cynical. That we're tuned out of and turned off by politics. That we might wear the buttons and make noise at the campaign events, but we don't show up on election day.
That conventional wisdom, which has been proved correct in election cycle after election cycle, is undergoing some serious revision this primary season. Because the truth of the matter is that younger voters aren't cynical, we're just cautious. We hunger for a candidate that we can believe in and be proud of, but also one who stands a chance of winning. For too long now, our choices have been between candidates who pass the ideological smell test but don't have a snowball's chance of being elected, and candidates who have the money, organization, endorsements, and substance, but who fail to inspire. Every four years, Democrats are faced with a choice between nominees like Mike Dukakis (smart and genial, but weak and unelectable) and Bill Clinton (smart, genial, tough, and electable, but equivocal, untrustworthy, and sharklike).
In Obama, younger Democrats have a candidate whose lofty rhetoric is not only inspiring, but grounded in substantive, thoughtful positions on the issues that matter. We have a candidate whose ideas are firmly grounded in the liberal Democratic tradition, but who communicates them in a way that appeals to more than just liberal Democrats. We have a candidate who is passionate about healing old divides and bringing diverse groups of people together, but who isn't afraid to hit back when he's attacked. We have a candidate whose very face and name can do incalculable good toward repairing America's image abroad.
K and I are fast approaching the day when we'll have to lay aside the label of "younger voters." But for tonight, on the eve of the primary, we're relishing the novelty of not only being able to make a real difference in the presidential race for the first time, but also being able to cast our votes for a candidate who's smart, genial, tough, electable, and inspiring. One who -- dare I use the cliche -- gives us reason to hope.
The polls open tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. I plan to be there bright and early. And when I finally get to touch that screen, I'll do so with head held high.