Remember how we felt the night Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses. For a brief moment, the division, the bitterness, the cynicism, the anger subsided. Even the most skeptical pundits recognized the beauty of the moment as Barack Obama and his young family made their way onto the stage where he delivered one of the most memorable speeches in a generation.
That night as I read through blogs and comments on news sites I witnessed something I have never seen before or since. Almost unanimously, people recognized something profound just happened. They were inspired. They felt hope. They were proud to be Americans.
As Ariana Huffington eloquently put it the morning after: "Obama's win [in Iowa] might not have legs. Hope could give way to fear once again. But, for tonight at least, it holds a mirror up to the face of America, and we can look at ourselves with pride.
"It's the kind of country we've always imagined ourselves being -- even if in the last seven years we fell horribly short: a young country, an optimistic country, a forward-looking country, a country not afraid to take risks or to dream big."
A few weeks later, we find ourselves once again muddled in vitriolic debates about race, gender, drugs, corruption, voter suppression, distortion, and division. A party that was once on the cusp of becoming a unified and powerful new coalition, supported by a substantial, energized youth vote and droves of independents is now fracturing and may not recover.
Is it a coincidence that this sad state of affairs comes on the heels of two Clinton victories?
Is this what we have to look forward to for the next four to eight years? Sure, things will be better than Bush, but for the most part, it will likely be the same fights, the same dull rhetoric, the same polarization, the same politics as usual, the same damn game that drove so many young people like myself into cynicism and indifference over the past 30 years.
Barack Obama gave us hope that we could move beyond this gridlock. It wasn't that we believed he could magically solve all our problems. It was that he empowered us, he created a movement for change, he showed us what a real democracy looked and felt like. His change wasn't a mere slogan, it was something real and tangible, bubbling up from the grassroots.
The difference between Obama and Hillary has never been about policy, where they share many similarities (for the time being). The difference is in leadership. Bottom-up versus top-down, conviction versus calculation, vision versus viability, mobilization versus machination.
I don't know what will happen from here. It appears many voters have once again succumbed to fear and distortion. In these uncertain times, we want certainty; we want "experience" even if that experience leads one to vote for the worst foreign policy decision of our generation. Over time, that reality can be re-written and blurred. Meanwhile, the candidate being re-cast by the Clintons as a full-fledged Reaganite had the vision and moral courage to speak out against the war when it counted.
America, when will we wake up? We have the greatest opportunity for a truly transformational leader since Bobby Kennedy and we seem determined to squander it for a candidate we will regret in a few years, when Republicans are ready to take back the Senate and our moment for substantial, meaningful change has passed.
For one cold night in Iowa, Barack Obama brought America together: liberal and conservative, black and white, male and female, rich and poor, young and old. At that moment, anything seemed possible.
Fortunately, it's not too late to be on the right side of history.