Wed Nov 7, 2012, 07:53 AM
muriel_volestrangler (65,358 posts)
Charles Pierce: The Greatness of Barack Obama Is Our Great Project
There is a story that they tell in Georgia politics about the first time that Barack Obama was inaugurated as this most improbable president of the United States. Shortly before the ceremony, they say, he met with John Lewis, the congressman and American hero who was nearly beaten to death on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama as he marched to demand the right simply to vote. The two huddled in the corner and the president-elect wrote something on Lewis's inaugural program. He walked away, and Lewis showed the program to the friends who had come with him.
"Because of you," it said. "Barack Obama."
Part of what drives people crazy about him — and if you wanted to see crazy, you should have seen the fugue state that overcame the Fox election all-stars last night, because I've seen jollier police lineups — is that he so clearly understands his own genuine historical stature, and that he wears it so easily, and that he uses it so deftly. It is not obvious. He does not use it brutally or obviously. It is just... there with him, a long and deep reservoir of violence and sorrow and tragedy and triumph out of which comes almost everything he does. He came into this office a figure of history, unlike anyone who's become president since George Washington. The simple event of him remains a great gravitational force in our politics. It changes the other parts of our politics in their customary orbits. It happens so easily and so in the manner of an immutable physical law that you hardly notice that it has happened until you realize that what you thought you knew about the country and its people had been shifted by degrees until it is in a completely different place.
But the history that propels him is not the history that many of us learned in school. It is the underground history of the country, buried deep in the earth, over and over again, but stubbornly rising, over and over again, until it gathered all of its momentum behind him and made him the event that he was in 2008 and that he remains today. It was the history that was behind John Lewis as he walked over that bridge. It is the history that was behind him in his first campaign and then, rather late in the day, in his second campaign as well. And it is through him, maybe, that the underground history is fully integrated at last into the history of the country, that it is acknowledged at last as what it always has been — an important element to be used in the constant re-creation of our political commonwealth. He as much as said so late last night, pushing toward two in the morning.
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