Hope at the End of a Long Campaign

obama102908.jpgIt’s hard to believe that America has been embroiled in electioneering for the better part of this year. It’s been trying–American campaign coverage is generally a disgrace. For me, the miracle of the Obama campaign has been his ability to rise above the petty mudslinging of politics as usual and offer a unifying vision for a diverse and divided country. As Steve Chapman has put it, “It is a message of fundamental unity and good will, at a time when politics often resembles Henry Adams’ mordant description: ‘the systematic organization of hatreds.'” It is a message that has attracted thoughtful conservatives ranging from Andrew Sullivan to David Post to Peggy Noonan to Doug Kmiec. All see the terrible challenges we are facing, and the need to pull together as a country.

The Onion styles this election–only half in jest–as a “War for the White House.” Politics so often seems to amount to Pyrrhic victories and zero-sum struggles for power. But I sense the financial meltdown has brought about a new seriousness in America, and that Obama is the ideal leader for such a time. As Seamus Heaney puts it,

History says, don’t hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme.

We saw the “longed-for tidal wave of justice” in the great leadership of FDR during the Great Depression. We saw it in the flawed LBJ’s drive for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Voting Rights Act. I have a sense that this is one of the few times in my lifetime we can hope for it again. As MLK once declared, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

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