As a community organizer in Chicago in the '80s, Obama had been influenced by the teachings of Saul Alinsky, a radical with a realist bent who once wrote, "Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people." Obama knew he had a knack for finding non-threatening ways to make people accept change—to begin with, his own skin color. As Jarrett recalled, Obama insisted that he wanted to run a grass-roots campaign because he had seen it work as a community organizer, and he wanted to try to take the model and go national.Part one of Newsweek's exhaustive "How He Did It" is now up.
As a side note, I noticed while tagging this post my old "we need a revolution in this country" tag; as the above excerpt indicates, in a very real sense, we just had one.
The annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Des Moines on Nov. 10 was a crucial beauty pageant before the real contest, the caucuses on Jan. 3. Obama's Iowa organization made sure to pack the hall and drown out the supporters of all the other candidates. Because the candidates were not allowed to use teleprompters, Obama spent hours memorizing the words and perfecting his delivery. The speech was a good one, ripping George W. Bush and taking down Hillary (a little more subtly), and it built into a crescendo as Obama told the story of how, on a miserable morning when he faced a small, bored crowd in Greenwood, S.C., a single black woman in the audience had revived his flagging spirit by getting the crowd to chant, responsively, "Fired up!" "Ready to go!" Slipping from an easy, bemused tone to a near shout, Obama egged on the overflow crowd at the J-J dinner. "So I've got one thing to ask you. Are you FIRED UP? Are you READY TO GO? FIRED UP! READY TO GO!" The Washington Post's David Broder, the Yoda of political reporters, was watching and understood that Obama had found the Force. The speech became Obama's standard stump speech, and in the weeks ahead it never failed him. Broder described the effect of Obama's thumping windup: "And then, as the shouting became almost too loud to hear, he adds the five words that capsulize the whole message and sends the voters scrambling back into their winter coats and streaming out the door: 'Let's go change the world.' And he sounds as if he means it. In every audience I have seen," Broder reported on Dec. 23, a week and a half before the Iowa caucuses, "there is a jolt of pure electrical energy at those closing words. Tears stain some cheeks—and some people look a little thunderstruck."