The past weeks have been difficult for those of us on the left who pledged our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to the Obama campaign. The series of deeply troubling decisions about trials for the Guantanamo detainees, the brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, the failure to act on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, all have left us with a sickening feeling that what we worked so hard for is slipping away.
This morning, I dropped my wife off at Old Navy for a little shopping, and then waited for her in a nearby Barnes and Noble. After a cinnamon scone and a small coffee [absurdly called a grande by the Starbucks outlet in the bookstore], I decided to buy Richard Wolffe’s new book, Renegade, his account of the Obama campaign. As I read the first chapter, which focuses on election day itself, I found myself quite unexpectedly tearing up.
I think it is useful to take a deep breath and remember what a life-saving moment that day was for so many of us. By that November day, we had been wandering in the wilderness for four decades, starting with the devastating ’68 election of Nixon and relieved only by the failed presidency of Jimmy Carter, a profoundly decent man, and the ambiguous interregnum of Bill Clinton, a deeply flawed man. For those of my generation, who were born during the first Roosevelt term, it seemed that mortality would catch up with us before we could again feel anything resembling pride in the America that has been our earthly portion.
Despite his centrist instincts, and the objective constellation of political forces with which, as president, he must contend, Obama remains an inspiring and progressive figure, with whom, and through whom, we can pursue the goals that beckon to us and the ideals that inspire us. The more vigorously we organize in pursuit of those goals, the more clearly and insistently we articulate those ideals, the more positively he and his administration will respond.
We were not wrong to give so completely of ourselves to the cause of his campaign, and we need, all of us, from time to time, to allow those tears to flow yet again.