The man who won the job that, years ago, Abraham Lincoln lost to Stephen Douglas, just announced his candidacy for Lincoln’s ultimate office. He, a Democrat, ties his campaign to the memory of that victorious, martial and Republican president. Barack Obama’s media promotion from rock star to star candidate has come with the story that he will be a consensus candidate, one who, by fighting for “the meaning of his Christian faith,” as he said Saturday, will save the Union. Some, at Yale and elsewhere, those who identify as conservative and others, doubt the veracity of this story. I contend that it is true.
Sen. Obama should be the next president of the United States. The senator, undeniably “liberal” on many issues, brings several virtues to his candidacy. He is not so tied to one political camp that his candidacy amounts to a declaration of war on committed American citizens. I believe he can redefine that political conversation necessary for a democracy to succeed.
Each step in his life, Obama announced, he has taken so that he “might play a small part in building a better America.” So should we all. We Americans must abandon the conceit that, if I just take care of my immediate happiness, the world will be a better place. Democracy, as Obama points out, depends on active and moral participation in government.
In his civic work, this man, this example recognized that “when a child turns to violence … there’s a hole in that boy’s heart no government could ever fill.” This should encourage conservatives; this is not a liberal who wants to replace the church with the government. He is, instead, one who recognizes that a child cannot flourish when he is not fed or when he is failing in health, and that if the government can help that child flourish, it ought to help.
Full disclosure: I am from Illinois and I worked for Hynes, the state comptroller whom the then-state senator defeated in the primary. I saw, and see, problems with Obama. We will see stories about his pre-political life that do not necessarily match the image that some give of him. Many of his supporters expect him to be an agent of the far left. He, if elected, would be America’s first biracial president, and race, which need not be a major issue, may become his only issue. If so, I will be sorely disappointed. The former professor Obama is the American candidate, not the black or biracial or born-of-a-Muslim or Chicagoan candidate. Obama is a smart man, with smart advisers, who speaks responsibly and encourages optimism. Our senator will articulate policy views in the upcoming months because charm alone cannot and should not win elections. His administration will be a pragmatic, not an ideological one.
Yes, Obama has been blessed. Coincidence and a smiling heaven have allowed him, many years shy of his rivals, on the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He seems unfairly projected onto the national stage. Remember, friends, that one’s record does not govern; the president and his advisers do. His lack of time in the beltway works to his advantage. Unattached to particular ideologies, he can govern pragmatically and to the center. Let us not become so egomaniacal as to think that one particular individual’s history can drive the country forward. That is how to write a play, not how to protect American lives, execute American laws and make the world free.
“If you feel destiny calling,” Obama told us Saturday, “together we can finish the work that needs to be done and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth.” These words call for no empty isolation, no oppressive bureaucracy. They call for patriotism. I admit that I find it difficult to withhold my allegiance from a fellow Yalie. I believe in the ability of the Yale education to prepare leaders. But if I’ve loyalty for Yale, I’ve two loyalties before: for God and for country. Obama’s campaign will be driven by his understanding that heaven has given each individual human stature, and his run will be well for my beloved country and for my only world.
Michael Leo Pomeranz is a sophomore in Silliman College.