Obama's victory speech last night further elaborated the connection between the national unity he has always asserted and the political "change" he seeks. The heart of it came at the end. After telling the tale of a couple whose daughter's leukemia would have cost them everything had Obamacare not kicked in, he said, describing a crowd listening to the father tell his story:
every parent in that room had tears in their eyes, because we knew that little girl could be our own.
And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That’s who we are. That’s the country I’m so proud to lead as your president.
"That little girl could be our own." That's the link between asserting national unity and insisting that change comes from the bottom up.
Obama's whole career has been a bid to move the center left to correct its rightward lurch since 1980. His pitch is based on an historical argument that the country has thrived because it has continually committed itself to shared prosperity, investment in the common good, that is, in human capital and the closest we can get to equal opportunity and general security. That commitment has been extended in ever-widening circles (which conservatives would call ever-expanding government). That's what "a more perfect union" means to him: he sees unity in commitment, ratified in legislation, to the common good. That's why, after four years of unrelenting partisan combat that he tried all too long and too hard to short-circuit, he was able, last night, to come full circle at the close:
America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.He was effectively saying, I won this argument.
I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.
How's that 'more perfect union' working out?
Obama's theory of change
Obama maintains hope, but not in comity