The Day After: Overwhelming

The Day After: Overwhelming

Day After: D. Bromwich – Overwhelming

WHO WOULD pretend not to be overwhelmed? In the world of ordinary politics, of actions planned and executed in the normal system, there is nothing to compare it to.

Since 1968, the Republican Party has believed that the White House belongs by right to a Republican. The presidencies of Carter and Clinton were marred not just by the usual efforts of opposition, but by efforts of delegitimation of a peculiar virulence. It will take all of Barack Obama’s wit and resourcefulness to command the fair hearing that is owed to the side that has won its innings.

Yet it seems possible he will enjoy an access of goodwill almost commensurate with his accomplishment. For though Obama is a prudent politician, he has an effect on people that puts all calculation at a loss. There was evidence of his effect once again in the magnanimity of John McCain’s concession: a leave-taking of impressive grace and depth.

America looks different to the world today–and different to itself. For seven years and two months, we have been dieted on catastrophe. We have found that a state of the public mind geared to a perpetual emergency is incompatible with democracy. Politically, and morally, this state of mind exhausts more than it exhilarates. The largest promise of an Obama presidency (a promise more nearly suggested by the mood of the man than by any utterance or declared policy) is to reconcile us to realities.

David Bromwich is Sterling Professor of English at Yale. He is author of Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic and editor of a selection of Edmund Burke’s speeches, On Empire, Liberty, and Reform.

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