In almost poetic lockstep, Republican and Democratic caucus voters in Iowa rejected the political establishment. In picking Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama, they selected candidates who, at this time last year, conventional wisdom would have deemed inconceivable.
Beyond this common denominator, and equally fascinating, is the fact that these two candidates and two political stories are mirror images of each other. Huckabee a traditional values conservative and Obama a boiler plate liberal. And, of the leading candidates in Iowa, Huckabee spending the least money and Obama the most.
To the extent that these caucus outcomes point to the themes that will define this upcoming election, and I believe they do, we can expect a national referendum about what America is about today.
Regarding Obama, this is, of course, a great and moving story. The historic significance cannot be lost. Iowa Democrats, in a state whose population is perhaps 2 percent black, decisively picked a black man to be their candidate for president of the United States.
For anyone who follows public opinion polls, it's not news that race is no longer a factor of significance in American political choices. But to see this translate into hard reality is something else and sends a very important message to blacks and all Americans about what a great country this is.
But in understanding the Obama candidacy, we must go beyond recognizing that this is not about race. It is about who Obama is, and this is the story that will play out in this election.
Obama not only obliterates the lines on race, but he also obliterates the lines on everything else. The end of the racial line is a great achievement. But the other points of demarcation we do need.
I am talking about the lines that define right and wrong in the sense of our religious traditions. The lines that define family and establish the standard by which we measure its health and breakdown. The lines that we have used in the past to instruct our children about how to manage and direct their sexual impulses.
I am also talking about the lines in our nation's Constitution that draw a boundary where the federal government belongs and does not belong. And the lines that define property and ownership that go beyond our Constitution and reach to our ancient truths and traditions (Thou Shalt Not Steal).
The lines from our traditions that provide crucial direction for managing our own selves (Thou Shalt Not Covet) and the crucial line that defines the very beginning of life.