I saw the end of the Debate last night on CNN, and fell asleep on the hotel room bed while Anderson Cooper and his coterie of opinionators blabbed about how both contestants performed. When I woke up a few minutes ago, seven hours later, it was still going on. I switched over to ESPN and saw another bunch of opinionators doing the same thing, only the subject was basketball. Only the content was different. The format was the same. So were the metaphors. Sports and war.
Yet what I saw, when Hillary said — with grace and apparent sincerity — that it was “an honor” to be running against Barack Obama, and that “Whatever happens, we’re going to be fine”, was the beginning of a concession. It was hedged, for sure. She clearly still wants to win Ohio and Texas. But the writing is on the wall, and it says Barack Obama is not only going to be the Democratic candidate, but the next President of the United States as well.
The change won’t just be symbolic. It will be substantive. One thing that’s so appealing about Obama is that his candidacy subordinates race, subordinates the differences that have divided us for so long. It doesn’t trivialize them, but it does put them in the category of Stuff We Can Move Past, because we have work to do.
I think Dave’s analysis is correct. And he’s right to call the challenge United States 2.0. Maybe we can see our way to something wonderful, instead of a continued struggle. For Dave that’s a new Democratic government. I’m looking for a government that’s energized around facing three very different but overlapping problems.
First, that the U.S. is no longer the only superpower — and that superpower itself will no longer be defined by military might of the conventional sort. War will be different. Might will be different. Ending our worst problems in Iraq will only be the start of it. We need a new relationship with the rest of the world, and better models for understanding the problems there. (I suggest that Barack consult Thomas. P.M. Barnett for help with that.)
Second, that the U.S. must restore both its moral and technical stature, both of which have slipped badly in the last few years.
Third, that seas will rise as ice continues to melt in the Earth’s polar regions, and that this requires far more than “fighting global warming”. If we wish to avoid famine, war over shrinking lands and a global ecological breakdown, we need to think decades and even centuries ahead. Our species has never done that. Instead it has eaten the planet’s resources like a plague of locusts. That will have to change, or nature’s human experiment will fail.
All three require leadership of a sort we have not seen since Reagan. I hope Barack Obama is up for it. Because it’s going to be a very hard job.
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