While liberals parroted the Simpson line that the system was the criminal, conservatives denounced the acquittal as proof that the system was broken from the other end. They thundered about the "death of outrage," particularly on the part of the milquetoast media, which knew he was guilty.
Now Simpson is finally going to prison. Alas, not for murder but for, among other things, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping. This time everyone appears pleased. The evidence against Simpson is hardly more damning than the billion-to-one DNA evidence last time. Yet no one sees Simpson as a victim or symbol this time, which is odd.
Given that Barack Obama's every utterance seems to spur the minting of a new commemorative plate to the cause of racial progress, you'd think more would be made of this moment.
The only sustained controversy of Obama's campaign arose over his former pastor Jeremiah Wright's bilious rhetoric, which Obama largely defused with his "A More Perfect Union" speech on race. Though eloquently written and compellingly delivered, it was often contradictory and deeply self-serving. The best part, however, was his explanation of his objection to Wright's ravings.
"The profound mistake of Rev. Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country ... is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen -- is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope -- the audacity to hope -- for what we can and must achieve tomorrow."
Obama's hopes for this country and mine differ, to be sure. But on this point, Obama was absolutely right. America's racial story begins horribly with slavery but has become one of unfolding success. Those who saw Simpson as a symbol of permanent division and the impossibility of progress were wrong. What better proof of that is there than that Obama, the nation's first black president, will be figuring out the floor plan at the White House at almost exactly the same moment Simpson will be figuring out how the toilet works in his cell?