University of Virginia Professor James Ceaser meditates on Barack Obama’s invocation of mystical “Change” as the keystone of his campaign:
It looms in Obama’s discourse like a mystical concept that is larger than the sum of its parts. It is Change with a capital C. Break it down into its individual pieces–the changes–and it loses much of its luster. It becomes little more than a conventional litany of liberal Democratic programs: ethics reform, universal health care, fairer taxes, and ending the war in Iraq. But allow it to soar in Obama’s eloquence and it achieves almost a moral and spiritual dimension. Change will bring “a different kind of politics” that produces a leader (Obama) able to reach across party lines to end polarization, albeit entirely on liberal terms. This aspect of Obama’s appeal, which elevates politics beyond concrete issues, has completely confounded Hillary Clinton’s campaign. She has had no answer to it.
Do the Republicans have an answer for Obama, even if Ms. Hillary lacks one? Ceaser thinks so, in the person of John McCain:
The greatest real change in the presidential campaign so far has been the shift in the military situation in Iraq. It has revived John McCain’s campaign and turned the Democrats’ debate into one largely about domestic issues, with vague references to our standing in the world. Obama’s stump speech has evolved over the past few months to accommodate this shift. Republicans can take some solace from this change. 2008 will not be a simple repeat of 2006.
Much of the punditocracy now in New Hampshire has been inching toward the idea that the results of the primary tonight will likely set (or reflect) the national results. The choice in November will be between Barack Obama and John McCain, with, to take the speculation to its furthest conclusion, Bill Richardson and Mike Huckabee as their respective running mates. This thinking might come from being too close to the event of the day, but if that is indeed America’s choice this year, then what’s not to like about it?
I can think of a few things in response to Professor Ceaser’s concluding question, but I take his point.
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