Something happened to Obama, and to a lot of us as we watched. I'm old enough to recall well what happened with Robert F. Kennedy, McCarthyite lawyer and union buster, carpetbagger, opportunist, who, for reasons still unclear to me, grew into as decent, courageous and significant a politician as I've seen in this country.
Obama's become more than he has a right to have become, not because of his merits alone, which, while considerable, don't elevate him to Olympian heights. There's a strange alchemy afoot, in which a good part of the country has been given an opportunity to reject despair, to hope that even incremental progress can be made against the thousand unnatural shocks that we've been heir to, that American democracy need not be pronounced as dead as the Weimar Republic, nor American industry as dead as Digital Equipment, Polaroid and the Edsel, nor America's role in the world that of a destroyer rather than a builder, that of a champion of humanity rather than a militaristic bully. That's a lot, but it isn't just on Obama's shoulders; we'll all carry it, and maybe, just maybe, move forward with it, into a future that's somewhere between millennial and Mad Max, where human lives mean something and there's pleasure to be had in the satisfaction of public appetites for good, as well as private indulgences cloistered in gated communities.
So I'm going to vote today. I'm taking my kids with me. I'll tell them I'm voting for them. And for the Muslims, the women, the prisoners, the scientists, the teachers, the nurses, the human rights lawyers, the polar bears; for all those who say, 'How can I help?' instead of 'What's in it for me?', for all those who make of being human something approaching the magical. And for myself, for all my fallen brothers and sisters, for a half century's worth of hopes and fears, for possibility rather than cynicism, for a chance, just a chance.
For Barack Obama, and the hundreds of thousands of people who have made it possible for me to vote for him today, thinking he might be president of the United States.
Keep your eyes on the prize.