Wednesday, June 04, 2008

They don't call it a "crush" for nothing

Last night in Minnesota Barack Obama poured compliments on Hillary Clinton. Not just a couple of token remarks, but a substantial load of solid stuff. Publius at hilzoy's place captures the feeling.

I pride myself on being fairly cynical. Like any good child of the 90s, I’ve watched more than my share of Larry David. And I understand the frustrations that Clinton supporters and more hardened, cynical Obama supporters feel when they hear all the naive gushing praise for him — particularly from young people.

But they need to understand that many of us have never had a moment like this. We’ve never really been inspired — we’ve never “looked up” at candidates in a Paul Fussell “Romantic” sense. Candidates have never been bigger than us — we look down on them, we criticize, we tell dry jokes, we watch the Daily Show. We’re just not that inspired.

But for the first time, a lot of people are inspired. I don’t really remember 1992, and I didn’t exist in 1960. So I don’t know what this feels like. But I’m excited — I’m not in cult-like worship mode, but for the first time in my political life, I’m genuinely excited about the opportunities ahead. Maybe that will prove silly — maybe the proverbial 1968 lies just ahead. For now, though, I’m excited.

But even if 1968 lies ahead, who cares. When you see your teenage children experiencing crushes for the first time, you hopefully don’t call them over and say “these emotions you’re feeling now, they will soon be crushed.” You pat them on the back and wish their doomed enterprise well, and maybe savor a few youthful memories of your own.

And who knows, maybe this time, the good guys will win. Maybe in this version, there is no Nixon -- no 1968. Maybe Mercutio survives. It’s a historic and exciting time — progressivism appears to be in an intellectual revival. The Democrats — having shed its Dixiecrat wing — are poised to command the most progressive majority in American history. And there’s a very real chance that Barack Obama could be leading that majority come next year.

To be sure, Clinton and Clinton’s supporters will play an important and necessary role in making all this happen. That’s why I hope that personal anger will soon give way in the face of the more promising future that is within reach. It’s not guaranteed — McCain is a strong candidate. But there’s a chance — a very real chance — that America is on the verge of something quite special.

I was there in 1968 and it was terrible. We have been paying the price ever since. The Clinton years were the culminiation of all that was good and all that was bad from the Sixties. I, for one, am glad it's finally over. Whatever happens next can't be as bad as what has happened since Clinton left office. And I'm not talking about terrorism. I'm talking about how terrorism has been used as a manipulative political tool in the name of patriotism and so-called democracy.

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