Sunday, February 24, 2008
I am watching Meet the Press and heard presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (bar none the most authoritative voice I've heard on presidential history) make an excellent point in response to a statement by New York Times commentator David Brooks to the effect of "You really have to wonder how Obama can bring about this 'change' and 'unity' with these 70-year-old committee chairmen on the Hill."
Her response was highly elucidating:
"What history argues -- and I think that this is what [Obama] is arguing -- is that the only time we've seen progressive change in this country is when the country is mobilized to push the people in Congress to action.
That's what happened in the progressive movement at the turn of the century; that's what happened in the New Deal; that's what happened in the 60s.
I think that's what he's arguing -- I can't just get it done by myself; I need to have that movement out there that will push us in Washington (me and them included) [to make that change happen]."
This really is a gem of a formulation and a strong argument in favor of Obama's message. Whichever candidate gets elected is going to face some huge hurdles to change, in the form of the entrenched interests that are beholden to the system as it currently exists. The changes that both Democratic candidates are proposing to the health care system in particular will require an overwhelming and consistent push by the average voter on their Representatives and Senators.
As any dispassionate observer of this election would agree (bearing in mind that I don't consider myself to be in that category), the groundswell of the Obama phenomenon is a unique once-in-a-generation thing.
Now, look at the dates connected to the events that Doris Kearns-Goodwin cites and you'll note that, roughly speaking, enormous enthusiasm for progressive change seems to peak every 30-40 years.
We are overdue for change. We suffered too long with the passing era's expediency, plotting, fighting, failed wars, failed healthcare intiatives and fear-mongering to let this moment pass us by.
As Obama has said, this is ultimately less him and more about us.
Update: Here is the video. Her comments start at around 9:33.