A reader makes an often overlooked point about Obama:
Obama isn't the first credible African-American candidate so much as he's the first credible Hawaiian candidate. Everything that's essential and appealing about him is Hawaiian in character, and reflects his years growing up there. People in Hawaii don't fixate on race, because everyone is mixed race, individually or by marriage, and they don't think in terms of political party, because that's at best a secondary characteristic; and above all, they don't think in terms of traditional left/right, red/blue polarities-- those are for the mainland. Hawaii is a place where conservative evangelical Christians are Asian and Polynesian, and the secular liberals are white and not quite local; where "black" isn't even a common category, because African-Americans are so rare; where liberal Democrats revere military service, largely because a lot of Hawaii's political leaders are veterans of the legendary all-Japanese 442nd Infantry, starting with Medal of Honor winner Dan Inoyue. In Hawaii, ideological stances are looked at with huge skepticism, because they imply pretension and putting on airs-- or as it's said there, "Hey brah, no act!"
The key to understanding Obama isn't race, or Kennedy, or any of that: the key is Hawaii.