Here's a truly conservative understanding of change - its inevitability, its concurring sense of loss, a polity's need to adapt and integrate it. Notice that it isn't reactionary; notice that it flees from abstractions; notice that it sees the grand actions of high politics as inextricable from the shifts among the "little platoons" that truly make up society. Notice the embrace of evolution over revolution. Yes, this is a liberal Democrat in name. But in actuality, he is so far away from these crude pieces of shorthand:

"America evolves, and sometimes those evolutions are painful. People don't progress in a straight line. Countries don't progress in a straight line. So there's enormous excitement and interest around the election of an African-American President. It's inevitable that there's going to be some backlash, potentially, to what that meansnot in a crudely racist way, necessarily. But it signifies change, in the same way that immigration signifies change, in the same way that a shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy signifies change, in the same way that the Internet signifies change and terrorism signifies change. And so I think that nobody should have ever been under the illusioncertainly I wasn't, and I was very explicit about this when I campaignedthat by virtue of my election, suddenly race problems would be solved or conversely that the American people would want to spend all their time talking about race. I think it signifies progress, but the progress preceded the election. The progress facilitated the election.

The progress has to do with the day-to-day interactions of people who are working together and going to church together and teaching their kids to treat everybody equally and fairly. All those little interactions that are taking place across the country add up to a more just, more tolerant, society. But that's an ongoing process. It's one that requires each of us, every day, to try to expand our sense of understanding. And there are going to be folks who don't want to promote that understanding because they're afraid of the future. They don't like that evolution. They think, in some fashion, that it will disadvantage them or, in some sense, diminishes the past. I tend to be fairly forgiving about the anxiety that people feel about change because I think, if you're human, you recognize that in yourself."

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to