I have read plenty of commentary about the significance of Obama’s election but none have resonated the way this did.
Obama’s idea, put simply, was that America can be better than it has been. It can reach beyond post-9/11 anger and fear to embody once more what the world still craves from the American idea: hope.
America can mean what it says. It can respect its friends and probe its enemies before it tries to shock and awe them. It can listen. It can rediscover the commonwealth beyond the frenzied individualism that took down Wall Street.
I know, these are mere words. They will not right the deficit or disarm an enemy. But words count. That has been a lesson of the Bush years.
You can’t proclaim freedom as you torture. You can’t promote democracy as you disappear people. You can’t stand for the rule of law and strip prisoners of basic rights. You can’t dispense with the transparency and regulation essential to modern capital markets and hope still to be the beacon of free enterprise.
Or rather, you can do all these things, but then you find yourself alone.
Obama will reinvest words with meaning. That is the basis of everything. And an American leader able to improvise a grammatical, even a moving, English sentence is no bad thing. Americans, in the inevitable recession ahead, will have a leader who can summon their better natures rather than speak, as Bush has, to their spite.
Maybe it is because the writer is also an expat Englishman. Roger Cohen cast his first vote as an American citizen for Barack Obama, as I will cast my first vote for his *re-election.
* Assuming he doesn’t suck (2 down, 1 to go)