Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Revolutionary Hope

Despite Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s sunny view of his prospects, it is not too soon to catch a peek at what an Obama presidency might be like.

The word “might” here is used advisedly because there is much that is unknown about Sen. Barack Obama. Also, there is much known that has not dripped through the semi-permeable membrane of a dishonest and partisan media.

Most of the media endorsements of Obama revolve around hope: Centrists hope he’s centrist; progressives hope he is progressive; the few conservatives that have backed Obama’s candidacy hope that he is only kidding about all that redistribution stuff. Many of Obama’s stated positions, as is usual with most politicians, have escape clauses in them. Some hope that, once in office, Obama will be able to revive a lost Camelot.

“I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them,” Caroline Kennedy said. “But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president -- not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.”

The Seattle Times: “Americans have not selected a candidate for president directly from the Senate since 1960, when they elected Sen. John Kennedy, who offered similar charisma and hope.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer: “It's a message that appeals to young voters and independents, to disillusioned Democrats eager to regain a sense of possibility and, yes, hope. Obama's frequent talk of hope strikes some people as naive. It leads others to question his toughness. But Obama understands something his critics do not: Change requires vision and optimism, shared sacrifice and mutual trust. Hope can sustain those elements; a presidency defined by political tactics cannot.”

New York Times: “Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems.”

The Hartford Courant: “If he uses his tremendous talents wisely, he offers the best hope to make America once again, in the eyes of the world, that "city on a hill."

"Obama is an incrementalist," according to Bill Curry, once and future advisor to presidents, "an empiricist and a conciliator. The real question is not whether he is a closet radical but whether he'll move boldly and quickly enough to avert disaster. There are signs he will. We can only hope."

Hope is in the air not only because Obama so often sounded the tocsin of hope during his campaign but also because the nature of his campaign – his glittering wide-as-a-barn-door generalities, his reputation as a conciliator among those styling themselves as pragmatists, his subtle and sometimes not so subtle shifts on policy issues – was imprecise enough to allow hope to breath.

The most accomplished revolutionary of the 20th century, V.I. Lenin, asked the right questions as Russia was dipping into revolution: "Kto, kogo? (who, whom?) ” Who rules, for whom?

Obama knows that the old order must be over thrown, and his language is that of a revolutionist: “Power never gives up power without a struggle.” He knows who should overthrow it: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” The “For whom” at present is somewhat up in the air.

In fact, the old order has been complicit in its overthrow. Who could have guessed a year ago that the titans of Wall Street would have been instrumental -- indeed, indispensable -- in overthrowing Wall Street just at the point when McCain was beginning to catch a break from a two-year-old largely successful war strategy in Iraq?

Hope, at least for Obama, springs eternal. And if hope, false or not, has arrived with all its battalions, can faith, fake or not, and charity, forced or not, be far behind?

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