From the left we are so used to disappointment that we almost need it, but let's not indulge in sheer masochism. Politics isn't always about the bottom line, and for me, President Obama's invisible victories are immensely heartening. He has cleansed the Presidency, reinstated America's status in the world, championed ideals on every front, and spoken truth to power, whether that means calling both the Israelis and Muslims to account or facing down racism in this country.
We cannot shortchange the shift in consciousness that Obama's election stands for and that his Presidency continues to inspire in millions of people. For the first time in American history, more than a quarter of the electorate in 2008 was non-white. For Hispanics and blacks, who are grossly underrepresented in state and national legislatures, there's been a psychological turning point. For the first time, they can say "He's my President" in the same way the white majority takes for granted.
The left isn't famous for ideological compromise, and if Obama followed that example, he would be awash in failure. Instead, he has steered through Congress more stimulus for education than Bill Clinton managed in eight years. He has revamped the bailout to make it more democratic. I find myself agreeing with the Rev. Al Sharpton, who said on one of the Sunday news shows that Pres. Obama may not walk on water, but he's turned into the best swimmer in politics. If his ambitions for health care reform turn out to come anywhere near his stated goals, that will prove the point beyond a doubt.
Finally, the left is forever caught between a sense of vaunted moral righteousness and the reality that such an attitude will never win votes or pass legislation. FDR, JFK, and Bill Clinton are considerable heroes to realists and grave disappointments to arch idealists. I'm glad that idealism exists and keeps the pressure on Obama, as Hans Morgenthau did on FDR and Adlai Stevenson on JFK (there were many others, of course). Yet does he really need prompting on this front? I can't imagine a President with a clearer moral sense, a higher standard of policy, or a broader perspective about the direction of the country's future.
So let's settle back and enjoy the fruits of the most idealistic election since 1932, or if you prefer, 1960. A dose of calm and a little perspective are the right prescription, even if the anxious neurosis of being a leftist is incurable.
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