A Time for Unconventional Wisdom

The political news from Iowa and New Hampshire has undercut the conventional wisdom about our present political culture. The surprisingly decisive victory in Iowa of Barack Obama, an African-American candidate campaigning in a predominantly white state, damaged the image of Hillary Clinton as the inevitable Democratic candidate for 2008. The enthusiastic response in other parts of the country to his victory seemed to reveal a desire for change on the part of U.S. citizens that transcended party lines. Similarly, the upset victory of Arkansass former Governor Mike Huckabee over the far better funded former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, rattled the conventional wisdom of the Republican Party as well as Mr. Romney.

The impact of the Iowa caucuses was immediately evident in the campaigning for the New Hampshire primary. All the Republican and Democratic candidates campaigning in New Hampshire began talking, some rather abruptly, about the need for change in America, a theme that had been at the center of the Obama candidacy and was, even to his rivals, vividly symbolized by his Iowa victory.

But on election night, Jan. 8, the conventional wisdom was once again overturned. The come-from-behind victories of Mrs. Clinton and Senator John McCain in the New Hampshire primary indicate that voters may want the change they seek coupled with a candidate with the experience to implement it.


The question before voters, therefore, is what kind of change shall we have? Many, including Senators Obama and McCain, have argued that true change must transcend traditional partisan divisions. Indeed, in this final year of the Bush presidency the nation does seem polarized to the point of paralysisto such a degree that a group of elder statesmen, both Republicans and Democrats, organized a conference at the University of Oklahoma, whose president, David L. Boren, is a former Democratic senator, to explore the possibility of launching a candidacy that would move beyond partisan polarization. Their guest of honor was Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, who at various times in his political career has been a registered Democrat and a registered Republican and has most recently identified himself as an independent. While consistently denying that he is considering a run for the presidency, Mr. Bloomberg has done little to discourage the efforts of his staff and supporters to arouse enthusiasm for a Bloomberg presidential campaign that would be self-financed and officially nonpartisan.

The conventional wisdom, of course, says that a third-party candidate cannot win a general election, that the obstacles are too great. But 2008 is already shaping up to be an extraordinary political year; and as the campaign moves forward toward other important primary votes and state caucuses, the candidates and their consultants will have to decide whether the conventional campaign wisdom of the past remains effective. Are the citizens of the United States truly wearyed of the polarization that was the goal of Karl Rove and his generation of political strategists? Will the television attack ads that cost millions of dollars and insult the intelligence of the voter remain a profitable investment for the campaigns? Or have we reached a turning point in American political history, where the challenges of our time, which include international terrorism abroad and growing economic disparity at home, demand a new kind of politics that better reflects the aspirations that all Americans share rather than the particular interests that may divide them?

In the weeks ahead, the American people will have an opportunity to measure Barack Obama against his own rhetoric and decide whether he is the best qualified candidate to bring about the change his candidacy symbolizes. Other, more familiar candidates can be fairly judged by that standard as well: Do they truly recognize that politics-as-usual is an exhausted strategy for the America of tomorrow and that a different campaign strategy that seeks to overcome divisions rather than exploit them must lead to a different kind of government?

Could the presidential marathon of 2008 prove to be such a historic moment? A new politics of hope would really be a recovery of the genius of the distinctively American proposition, e pluribus unumout of many peoples one nation can be formeda promise to be renewed and fulfilled at different moments for different generations.

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James Ruzicka
10 years ago
This is just a test.
James Ruzicka
10 years ago
Just a test. 2
James Ruzicka
10 years ago
Test 3
James Ruzicka
10 years ago
Test 4
10 years ago
We are a nation of morons who like guns. Who knows how this idiot nation will vote this time? If we are lucky it will be somebody like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or any Democrat. Bloomberg? He is a Republican. Republicans are as evil as any political party that has ever existed. They are really more like the Mafia than anyone who could care about the common good. They don't even know what the word means.
10 years ago
Absurd wishful thinking! It is precisely why two lesser-populated states do not get to make the final decision on a party's candidate. The real story is how many are actually competent and how many are just empty vessels with a lot of money and chutzpah. . In my party there are three I could vote for but woe to all of us if the other party would prevail. I congratulate the intelligent who knew well to withdraw .
Keyran Moran
10 years ago
To attempt a description of 2008 politics and the body-politic without labeling the diseases does not seem to be the work of a wise physician. One illness is utterly clear: Read ISRAEL LOBBY by Walt&Meirsheimer, 2006. I have a feeling that our editors do not want to read and do not want to understand…because that would require that they take a position and make decisions and probably have to suffer the inevitable retaliation of the Lobby. The silence of the grave and the hope in Wolf Blitzer’s soft words seem more melodious to them.
Tim Reidy
10 years ago
This is a test to see whether
10 years ago
Keeping in mind the actual status of the global political community, it would serve our own country well if we stopped proclaiming that we are the most powerful, richest and greatest nation, and humbly admit that in the family of nations, we are among the youngest and most blessed. We have been acting a bit like spoiled children, touting ourselves as the example of democracy and capitalism that the world should imitate. We should refocus our attention on the common good with legislation that supports the men and women who yearn for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” rather than the corporate enterprises which are concerned only with profit and control. In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Senator Barak Obama shares his thoughts and vision for our national family. In his autobiography, Dreams of my Father, he let us know that he is aware we all started out as children, survived adolescence, strive to mature as adults and, God willing, to continue sharing as elders. He is honest, realistic and sincere. He proffers a challenging invitation to his fellow citizens: let us work together to preserve and strengthen the “government of the people, for the people and by the people”. Personally, I am reminded of a catechism question: Why did God make me? God made me to know, love and serve him in this world and to be happy with him in the next. While I do look forward to being happy with God in the next world, I am aware that I am called to share the Good News today, because up until now, I have done little. I think all of the presidential candidates agree with this sentiment and hope. This election year offers us a mirror and a vision. We must look at our national self with clear vision. We should also admit that the hope of our parents nurtured hope in us and that this is the only inheritance we can offer our children.
9 years 12 months ago
Whatever value this editorial might have was lost when I realized the editors could not bring themselves to address Senator Clinton by her proper title. John Mc Cain and Barack Obama are both "Senator", but there is no "Senator" Clinton. NO. It's either Hilary or "Mrs". Why?
9 years 12 months ago
During the last Democratic Convention, most Americans who were listening were electrified by Barrack Obama's clarion call to become no longer red, no longer blue, but a truly United States of America. Great shades of JFK, or Martin Luther King, or perhaps, the best of both, with a bit of Bobby mixed in there, as well! How long since we've been inspired like that? Well, the time has come when we can respond to that call. The choice is ours. I pray for our future, for our America, that we make the right one.


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