A New Day
It's a new day for America and the world, but it benefits from the past. My two best friends from high school, fellow members of Jr. Teen Dems for Kennedy when we were 14, were doing GOTV on election day, as was I. Margaret remembered Martin Luther King talking about the future he envisioned but might not get to see. I saw Jesse Jackson weeping in the crowd at Grant Park, and I remembered his ground-breaking candidacy especially in 1992 when he was the last Democrat standing except for Bill Clinton in the primaries, and when in the darkest days of Reagan and Bush his message and his slogan was, "Keep hope alive."
Everyone who marched for Civil Rights in the early 60s, or against the war in the late 60s, has to feel they had a part in this, even if that generation--my generation--is reviled as a failure.
Now the Obama administration can not only call on the talents of those who have served in the past, but they can profit from past mistakes. My fellow conspirator in the 1970 antiwar movement at Knox College, John Podesta, is a leader of the transition, and as White House Secretary in Bill Clinton's first term (after leaving the White House, he returned to become Chief of Staff in the second term) he was well positioned to see all the problems in the Clinton transition.
All of this will serve the Obama administration well. But for all the talk about well-known Washington figures, I expect that eventually--if not immediately--we are going to be seeing a new generation in Washington. And that's as it should be. This was a generational election. And for once, America may have gotten a head start on its future. Because the electorate that voted for Obama is much more like America's future than are those who did not.
It's going to be a midwestern administration--perfectly positioned between the West, which is the vanguard of America's future, and the East/Middle Atlantic/South which dominated America's past, but they are transforming as well.
Obama's speech was remarkable for being so consistent with what he has said before, just as his closing argument was very close to his opening argument in the campaign. America might not quite yet know what it's got, but that's only because it's hard to take it in all at once. Obama has been saying it all along.
The numbers aren't all in as I write this, but surely this was a unique election, and a transformative one. We can't yet begin to see what it means. Except one thing: now the future has a chance. It will take a lot of work, but that possibility is something else I was afraid I wouldn't see in my lifetime.
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