Barack Obama For President

Posted: October 24, 2008

PEOPLE KEEP SAYING this is an historic election, the most important in half a century. And it is.

In concrete terms, the United States is faced with a range of crises - economic, military, diplomatic - that are increasingly complex, that defy ideology and demand an uncommon, united effort. Failure to address them in the past has put the well-being of our children and our planet in doubt. Failure to address them now will, we fear, seal their doom.

But history also includes things that are less prosaic, more poetic: We could be on the verge of picking a president who symbolizes what our country stands for. Opportunity. Equality. Leadership. And big ideas. In the process, we as a country may be becoming the change we want to see.

That's why we endorse Barack Obama.

At this point, maybe no one has the solutions to the country's problems, but Barack Obama has the best chance, by far, of finding them.

He is big enough for the moment.

As he has throughout his career as a community organizer, a law student, a state legislator and a U.S. senator, he will apply an intellectually rigorous approach to making decisions, crafting policy and bringing people together.

But it is his core temperament - and the movement that he has built, and that has been built around him - that will allow him to lead Americans into a challenging future with confidence.

In fact, Barack Obama is about everything our recent history has not been - and which the campaign of Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin have no chance of becoming. Obama offers a clean break with "us vs. them" and "you're on your own" mentality. Instead, he presents the hope - and challenge - to be a country in which "we're all in this together."

No one can question John McCain's long service to this country, as a soldier and a senator. But on one big thing, he is wrong: Americans are not so much angry, as he keeps on saying, as they are worried, and afraid. With each new economic shock, they are in danger of losing not only their homes and their jobs and their health, but also their spirit of optimism.

They are worried, too, about the distrust and disappointment with which the world greets United States foreign policy, and the consequences of forsaking our ideals - rationalizing torture and ignoring constitutional safeguards of civil rights.

Long before 9/11, but intensely afterward, they longed to answer a call to join in a common purpose, to ask what they could do for their country - and to receive answers that are worthy of them.

When he met Obama on the campaign trail in Ohio, the now-famous Joe the Plumber illustrated how inadequate those answers have been. Joe was concerned only with the remote possibility that some day he might have to pay somewhat more in taxes, failing to see the benefits of policies in which the overwhelming majority of Americans would share in gains from new technology, new approaches to providing health care - not to mention basic fairness.

Tellingly, Obama's response was seized on by McCain and Palin as "socialist." Obama had said, "I just want to make sure that everyone who is behind you has got a chance to succeed too. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Perhaps only someone who owns seven houses would worry about sharing a fair amount of the wealth that America helped him gain. Making sure everyone has a chance at success ought to be what America is all about. But isn't now.

People - most recently Colin Powell - keep saying that Barack Obama is a transformational figure. And he is.

In concrete terms, this means that he has, in his own words, "shown up" to campaign in areas in which there was little support for him initially. The electoral map reflects the result.

By embracing the use of new technology, the Obama campaign has invited millions of Americans to be a part of the movement for change. His fundraising strategy has transformed campaign financing, attracting a mind-boggling 3.1 million individual donors giving an average of $86. No one can know how this change will affect future elections, but the breadth of participation has loosened the hold that lobbyists and big fundraisers have had on past campaigns. It has promoted a "buy-in" by ordinary citizens. And that's only in money. Thousands of Americans also have enlisted as volunteers for Obama, many of them becoming politically involved for the first time in their lives.

Joe Biden was wrong, too. When campaigning against Obama in the primary, Biden said the presidency didn't lend itself to "on the job training." The fact is, there is no "experience" that fully prepares a person to be president.

But there are ways in which a true leader motivates people to take the risks for change, to make the sacrifices that are needed, to look beyond divisions of race and religion - and to meet well-founded fear with resolve. By the campaign he has run and the policies he has proposed, Obama has begun being that leader even before he was elected, even before he takes the oath of office.

The McCain campaign tried mightily to make this a "big election about small things," but Obama succeeded in making it about the biggest thing of all: America's future.

Not long ago, he began reassuring Americans that we will rise to the moment. "We can restore our economy and the fundamental belief that in America, our destiny is not written by us but for us," he said.

On Nov. 4, Americans can begin to write that destiny. *

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