The History Train

June 4, 2008

Professional claims on my time have kept me away from blogging this week. So much wordage has been expended on Barack Obama’s march into history, and so much of it has been very good, that I’m more inclined to quote the post I like best. It’s from Ezra Klein:

Obama’s speech tonight was powerful, but then, most all of his speeches are. This address stood out less than I expected. It took me an hour to realize how extraordinary that was. I had just watched an African-American capture the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America, and it felt…normal. Almost predictable. 50 years ago, African Americans often couldn’t vote, and dozens died in the fight to ensure them the franchise. African-Americans couldn’t use the same water fountains or rest rooms as white Americans. Black children often couldn’t attend the same schools as white children. Employers could discriminate based on race. 50 years ago, African Americans occupied, in effect, a second, and lesser, country. Today, an African-American man may well become the president of the whole country, and it feels almost normal.

It really will say something about this country if Obama, with all his intellect, his verbal gifts and his strategic canniness, ends up losing to a crusty old out-of-it white guy who left his principles in the dumpster years ago and has nothing to offer this country but the chance for conservatives to go on playing Jack Bauer and G.I. Joe for another four years.  

Back when Prince Hal’s Inbred Brother was running against Al Gore for the presidency, the elephant in the room that never got addressed was the anti-Clinton psychosis that had all but paralyzed the country and turned the Republican Party into a daycare center for raging troglodytes. Whenever Bush talked about how he wanted to cool off all the partisanship and start everybody working together, the obvious thing for Al Gore to say was, “Well George, if you’re offended by all the anger and partisanship going on right now, why not put in a couple of calls to your party leadership and tell them to stop accusing the president of drug-running, murder and rape. And while you’re at it, tell them we all have better things to think about than Bill Clinton’s dick.” Gore could have found a more polite way to phrase it, but you know. Still, it never was addressed.

This time out, as Duncan Black keeps pointing out, the elephant in the room is the Iraq war. If Hillary hadn’t decided to play it safe and let the rumpus room warriors have their way, she would be the nominee and everyone would be saying “Barack who?” She thought she was being shrewd, and it blew up in her face. That vote lost her the nomination, and yet the “analysts” and pundits are scrupulously avoiding talking about it. The war decided this primary, and it will decide the vote in November as well.

In her essay about self-respect (it’s in Slouching Towards Bethlehem), Joan Didion writes that without integrity, “one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.” I’m not a Hillary hater, but I think that sentence sums up this turning point in her political career. The country needed more from her than what she was ready to give, and now she gets nothing.     

I suspect John McCain, who began his career as a living rebuke to torture and ended up endorsing its practice on our side, may have a similar encounter with himself when this election is all over. 

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3 Responses to “The History Train”


  1. […] to Comments Steven Hart on why Hillary is not on her way to the White […]

  2. poetreearborist Says:

    I love this discussion of integrity and self knowledge. Televised punditry and “news” focuses on the external world – mainly through statistics with an emphasis on demographics and dull, hastily done surveys. The appeal of Obama is his vast internal landscape (or as one blogger suggested – DINU http://eyecube.wordpress.com/2008/04/21/barack-obama-dinu-brand/) into which we are all invited. Let’s explore complexity and nuance, rather than the blatant and obtuse. So much more satisfying.

  3. pinstripebindi Says:

    Thanks for writing this, I really enjoyed reading it. While I’m an Obama supporter, I’m not a Hillary hater, and it frankly makes me sad to see the way she’s totally bungled her campaign.


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