If the globe can’t vote next November, it can find itself in Obama. Troubled by the violent chasm between the West and the Islamic world? Obama seems to bridge it. Disturbed by the gulf between rich and poor that globalization spurs? Obama, the African-American, gets it: the South Side of Chicago is the South Side of the world.
—NYT columnist Roger Cohen, 12.15.07
At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a momentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.
—Andrew Sullivan, December cover story, The Atlantic
With two more MSM heavyweights weighing in on the "Obama is the future" tip (in very short order after this recent NYT magazine piece) it's time to inaugurate a new sidebar update item.
I'm calling it Only Obama.
Sullivan's piece is especially interesting, and not just because he's a Republican conservative who initially supported the Iraq war. Sullivan goes further than anyone I've read in distilling generational healing from Obama's not-boomerness. Only Obama carries no baggage from the intraboomer culture war rooted in and symbolized by Vietnam, Sullivan says. But the maverick gay conservative also comes back to the plain matter of Obama's face.
What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy... The next president has to create a sophisticated and supple blend of soft and hard power to isolate the enemy, to fight where necessary, but also to create an ideological template that works to the West’s advantage over the long haul. There is simply no other candidate with the potential of Obama to do this. Which is where his face comes in.
Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.
NB- I'm not necessarily an open Obama supporter. I honestly don't know who I'll vote for when the Democratic primary gets to New York. I don't even know if it will matter by then. But I am convinced that we have still not seen the full meaning of the Obama candidacy, whether he gets the nomination, or the presidency, or he does not.
So let's keep watching, and talking about it.