Friday, January 18, 2008

Obama brings genuine unity

Jerry Brady

Jerry Brady, former publisher of the Post Register newspaper in Idaho Falls, is now that company's president. He ran for Idaho governor in 2002 and 2006, representing the Democratic Party.


When Barack Obama campaigned for "change" and then won the Iowa caucus, one candidate after another co-opted his theme until the word lost meaning. Obama's appeal, however, is not just as an agent of change but as an agent of unity. Only by bringing Americans together will fundamental change be possible.

From the first, and against the advice of political veterans, Obama has taken the high road of unity, not the low road of divisive campaigning. After a narrow defeat in New Hampshire, he remained true. His concession speech soared.

We are told Sen. Hillary Clinton won because of an appealing, unguarded remark. On that same day, however, Bill Clinton attacked Obama with a visceral insistence that only the Clintons have the savvy and experience to govern. Is a Clinton restoration our best choice?

With just two viable candidates, the Democratic campaign now moves to Idaho's southern neighbor, Nevada, which votes next, on Jan. 19. At last, Western issues will be debated in an early Western primary.

Judging from his platform for Nevada, Obama has a solid grasp of regional issues that will make sense in Idaho. He's also got the only fully staffed campaign in our state, a remarkable commitment.

However, it is not water or rural education policy that will likely turn Westerners toward Obama, nor his positions on health care or the economy, which are similar to Clinton's. Rather, it is Obama the man that makes all the difference. He is the first fresh candidate in 40 years. He reaches across generations, divisions and the greatest gulf of all, indifference.

Obama can unite us because he came into politics after the bitter, brutal political years that have so engulfed and defined the Clinton-Bush era and wants no part of it. He is the best-liked candidate among Republicans for a reason: He believes the message of unity and felicity he preaches. He grew up that way.

Obama can unite us by redeeming the high moral ground on which our nation has always stood, now tragically lost. A proud new foreign policy would begin simply with his face.

Obama can unite us precisely because he is both black and white. In his person we could symbolically end the racism that has shadowed us since our founding. Pollsters say we're still racists but we're better than that.

In her revealing moment, Sen. Clinton said, "I just don't want to see us fall backwards." Touching as it may have been, this was about the past, not an aspiration for the future.

"This hope stuff, forget about that," said James Carville, the Clintons' longtime advisor. Maybe, but is it not hope and bringing of people together that makes all else possible?

You can't butter your bread with hope or get an education on unity. They won't pinch the debt or take 1 cent off the price of gas. Both can be false friends. However, Lincoln fought for unity. Lincoln retained hope in the darkest hour. A young man from Illinois deliberately began his campaign in Lincoln's shadow. Consider carefully what he offers us all.

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