Obama and Unity

Robin Toner asks "Obama’s Test: Can a Liberal Be a Unifier?" Since I was on the radio this morning to talk about polarization, this came up. And here's how I see it. Can Obama bring Republicans and Democrats together and reverse decades of structural trends toward ideological polarization? No.

Then there's the other thing. One thing many liberals believe is that one important reason America hasn't embraced liberalism is that the country is trapped in a politics of cultural division, and especially racial division. The theory of the Obama campaign is that the time is right for the right person to push the country past that and that Obama is the right person. I don't know that I believe that theory (I've primarily always been an anti-Clinton voter in this primary and I think there are fully adequate other reasons to back Obama) but I don't think it's a crazy theory. If Obama were to wind up securing 52 percent of the vote, that would be a long way from "unifying the country" but it would still be the biggest progressive mandate the country's had in decades.