“It was the blue badge of courage — Iraqis defied evil and danced through the Valley of the Shadow of Death to cast their ballots and then wave the purple ink-stained fingers that proved they’d voted.”

That’s the lead to Deborah Orin’s piece on the Iraqi elections. I guess that we can now argue that, no matter what the chattering classes (and the suicide bombing classes) say, the Iraqis were willing to risk life and limb to taste democracy.

“The sheer joy recalled the fall of the Berlin Wall, some said, but the Germans dancing around that wall didn’t have to face down evil because communism had already fallen, while Iraqis knew they risked death — and more than 30 were killed,” Orin continued. ’The people have won…Take a look today to meet the model of courage and human desire to achieve freedom, people walking across the fire to cast their votes,’ proudly wrote the Iraqi bloggers Mohammed and Omar.”

As Dexter Filkins of the New York Times reports, the turnout was significant (I’m refraining from shouting mind-boggling, given the circumstances):

“Voters in Shiite and Kurdish areas turned out in especially large numbers, and at the day’s end election officials here estimated that the nationwide turnout could exceed 60 percent. The turnout in the Sunni-dominated areas like Falluja and Mosul, where the guerrilla insurgency rages and where many Sunni leaders had called for a boycott, appeared to be substantially lower.

“Still, election officials said voting in the Sunni-dominated provinces had appeared to exceed initial expectations, and in some cases might reach 40 percent. In Mosul, a Sunni-majority city and the scene of heavy fighting in recent weeks, Western reporters saw voters in Sunni neighborhoods lined up outside polling stations.”

This is such a beautiful, remarkable turn of events that one must savor it and be confounded by the courage of the Iraqi people. This is certainly one of the most inspiring moments in recent history. All day yesterday I wondered: Would I have had the courage to vote in the Iraqi election? Would I have been brave enough to dance in the Valley of the Shadow of Death?

It’s hard to take your eyes off the brave Iraqis, but it’s important to talk about what this says for U.S. politics. While the Telegraph notes that the turnout “confounds” the “prophets of doom,” the Washington Post grudgingly allows as how the election is a “rare” victory for the Bush administration. Rare? It’s a great victory. Bush, who must have the insides of a riverboat gambler, refused to change the date of the elections in the face of constant clamor from the chattering classes (and bombs from those other nabobs of negativism). I think the lesson he learned during his father’s administration–not to trust the media–was far more profound than we realize.

On this subject, Orin writes:

“The fact that Iraq’s election triumph came as a surprise to so many Americans shows how badly they have been served by most press and TV coverage, which told mostly of deaths and trouble and ignored the first glimmerings of new hope.”

Bush ignores the media–I think that is one reason our riverboat gambler just keeps winning.

The Iraqi election also has ramifications for the Democratic Party in the U.S. Orin highlights some of them:

“Iraq’s blue badge of courage also poses a challenge to America’s Democratic Party ‘ do Democrats really want to become the party of Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Howard Dean, who paint Iraq as a disaster?

“After Iraqis showed their yearning for freedom, do Democrats really want Dean as their new national chairman? Are they proud of lionizing ’Fahrenheit 9/11’ film-maker Michael Moore for painting Iraq’s terror thugs as heroes and ’Minutemen’?

“All the Iraqis dancing with their flags yesterday were a reason for Americans to be proud of the war that toppled Saddam Hussein and opened the door to freedom — suddenly Bush’s second inaugural speech just 10 days before sounded prophetic. ‘All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors,’ Bush said then. ’When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.’”