An Inconvenient Truce


My essay on the Obama candidacy is now online:

[T]he most persuasive case for Obama has less to do with him than with the moment he is meeting. The moment has been a long time coming, and it is the result of a confluence of events, from one traumatizing war in Southeast Asia to another in the most fractious country in the Middle East. The legacy is a cultural climate that stultifies our politics and corrupts our discourse.

Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take Americafinallypast the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future. But it is only when you take several large steps back into the long past that the full logic of an Obama presidency stares directlyand uncomfortablyat you.

At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a warnot so much the war in Iraq, which now has a momentum that will propel the occupation into the next decadebut the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about warand about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obamaand Obama aloneoffers the possibility of a truce.