Thursday, November 06, 2008

an astonishing act of will

Arts and Letters Daily has a set of links on the victory of Barack Obama. Here are some extracts from these opinion pieces.

Four reasons why America went for Obama, Times (UK) by Daniel Finkelstein
Finkelstein joins many in noticing that the electorate is becoming increasingly Democratic overall; he says it's not the man but polices, cultural advances, and demographic shifts that matter.
One reading of this election is that it has been an ordinary contest transformed by an extraordinary candidate. America remains the same, runs this theory. It is still an innately conservative nation. The reason this election has been different - and has ended up with the victory of such an apparently unlikely man - is because of the talents and failings of the candidates involved. This is not a theory I accept.
In Our Lifetime,, by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Gates is eloquently ecstatic in a historically minded way.
On that first transformative day, when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Frederick Douglass, the greatest black orator in our history before Martin Luther King Jr., said that the day was not a day for speeches and "scarcely a day for prose." Rather, he noted, "it is a day for poetry and song, a new song."
Obama, Helped by Youth Vote, Wins Presidency and Makes History, The Chronicle of Higher Education, by Sara Hebel
Hebel writes about the place of the Academy in the country.
Young voters overwhelmingly favored Mr. Obama in Tuesday's election, including in key battleground states such as North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to national exit polls.

Over all, 68 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 cast their ballots for the Democrat, versus 30 percent who supported John McCain. That is by far the greatest share of the youth vote that any presidential candidate has received since exit polls began reporting results by age categories, in 1976, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, at Tufts University.
Let's Celebrate, The New Republic, by John McWhorter
McWorter is one of many who say it's not a time for negative thinking.
Okay: There are whites out there who didn't vote for him because of, or partly because of, his color. We heard all about them in a thousand earnest newspaper and magazine articles all summer and fall. We were told to worry. We did. And now we know what there was no way to know until now--we needn't have worried. America really has come that far.

Obama's Triumph Is America's Too, The Wall Street Journal, by Elizabeth Wurtzel
Wurtzel reminds us that Obama voices the rhetoric of inclusion.
Insofar as ethnicity is part of his success, it's in that he is equally black and white -- in fact he was reared in a Caucasian family -- and as such he is an avatar of inclusion. He represents what is great about America not because we have finally elected a black man as president, but because we've recognized the greatness of our mixed-breed heritage.

His race was an enormous attraction for many white Americans too, even - or perhaps especially - some white Republicans. Here is something that may be hard for foreigners to understand: Americans desperately want to believe that their country stands for fairness, for equality, for democracy. They especially want to believe this at times like the present, when there is a good deal of evidence to the contrary. After the disasters and embarrassments of the past few years - the mistakes made in Iraq and Guantánamo, the terrible financial crisis, the embarrassment of Hurricane Katrina - a vote for Obama allowed Americans to believe, once again, that the United States is still a virtuous nation.
A divide has been crossed, National Post (Australia), by Robert Fulford
Unlike Finkelstein, Fulford celebrates the man.
White Americans have traditionally treated blacks as the Other, outsiders and exotic. But by the end of Obama's primary and general-election campaigns, he was no longer among the Other. He disclosed, in every possible way, his essential Americanism -- and became, at least for this historic moment, an American hero and standard-bearer, the human embodiment of its ambitions and dreams.

By an astonishing act of will, and an equally astonishing genius for both administration and oratory, Obama now becomes the first black man to direct the government of a major nation in the West. He did it by exhibiting the individualism that his fellow citizens admire most. He demonstrated high ambition, discipline and intensely focused energy. Whatever difficult questions his platform has raised, conservatives, liberals and all in between should join in the cheers. This morning all Americans can look at Obama and see themselves.
The Triumph Of The Creative Class, Forbes, by Joel Kotkin
Arguably the biggest winners of the Nov. 4 vote are located at the highest levels of the nation's ascendant post-industrial business community.
America still a centre-right country, The Australian, by Gerard Baker
Baker tells the world not to expect a European style social democracy to emerge across the Atlantic. He also gives some electoral facts, including:
The first-term Senator from Illinois, in other words, did better than the governors George Bush in 2000, Bill Clinton in 1992, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Jimmy Carter in 1976, the former vice-president Richard Nixon in 1968 and the Senator and decorated war hero John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Perfecting the Union, NYT, by Roger Cohen
Cohen recently became a citizen, was casting his first vote in a presidential election. He reminds:
Four years ago, at the Democratic convention, in the speech that lifted him from obscurity, Obama said: “For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga: a belief that we are connected as one people.”
Hail to the Chief, Washington Post, By Michael Gerson
Speaks as a Republican supporter of McCain.
This presidency in particular should be a source of pride even for those who do not share its priorities. An African American will take the oath of office blocks from where slaves were once housed in pens and sold for profit. He will sleep in a house built in part by slave labor, near the room where Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation with firm hand. He will host dinners where Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 entertained the first African American to be a formal dinner guest in the White House; command a military that was not officially integrated until 1948. Every event, every act, will complete a cycle of history. It will be the most dramatic possible demonstration that the promise of America -- so long deferred -- is not a lie.
Bring on the Puppy and the Rookie, NYT, by Maureen Dowd
She is a flashy writer, a quirky, self-absorbed one, and here she makes a good point:
In the midst of such a phenomenal, fizzy victory overcoming so many doubts and crazy attacks and even his own middle name, Obama stood alone.

He rejected the Democratic kumbaya moment of having your broad coalition on stage with you, as he talked about how everyone would have to pull together and “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”
Yes, He Did, Slate, by John Dickerson
Dickerson writes of our hope.
At the start of his campaign, Obama often concluded his speeches by telling the story of his Senate campaign and how he prevailed in the southern part of Illinois despite its history of antipathy towards blacks. He cited Martin Luther King Jr., who said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." On Tuesday, 221 years after the adoption of a Constitution that allowed slavery to continue, an African-American won the presidency. In Grant Park, as Barack Obama left the stage, you could see that arc bend.

1 comment:

Denis Dutton said...

Nicely done! Fun to read in this way.

Denis Dutton
Arts & Letters Daily