By Brent Budowsky - 05/12/08 04:22 PM EDT
What is striking about Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is that, faced with personal attacks from the two great attack machines in American politics, coming from different perspectives sharing an alliance against him, Obama has emerged with his composure, his calm, his dignity, his purpose and his lead intact and enlarged.
It is a remarkable story that is still being missed by many in the establishment because they do not understand two great truths of 2008.
2008 is different because Americans are profoundly alienated by our negative and demeaning politics and civic life.
Barack Obama is a different kind of candidate, one who deeply believes, at the core of his character and with every fiber of his being, that our president must elevate our national discourse, inspire our democracy and transcend the divisions of our times.
Obama is no saint; he has made mistakes and will make more, but greatness begins with the clarity to know what is right and the aspiration to make it happen.
Obama aspires to be the uniter. It is the power and authenticity of this aspiration that drives the success of his candidacy and the promise of an Obama presidency.
Babe Ruth was asked by kids how to hit home runs. He told them to imagine the arc of the ball coming from the pitcher, the swing of the bat, and the arc of the ball flying over the fence.
In war, great novels, championship sports and historic elections, it is all about the arc of the protagonist and the narrative of the occasion.
For Barack Obama the arc is both clear and true. It is the arc of the uniter that has been the narrative of his life, the story line of his career, the style of his politics and the source of his strength.
The challenge for Obama is to take what he has built and expand on it. Like Frank Sinatra’s famous patriotic song “The House I Live In,” Obama must achieve what George Bush never imagined: to be the candidate and president for all the people, all the time.
The forces of division are real. Even Democrats are not immune to lesser voices who speak of hard-working white people.
Obama today is where Robert Kennedy stood the night he won the Indiana primary in 1968 by seeking to transcend the divisions of his times.
It is history-making: the surge of 2 million small donors that will reach 3 million by November. The outpouring of democracy in primaries and caucuses everywhere. Now, a game-changing plan for voter registration that gives Democrats the opportunity for a 1932-magnitude election, if they unify promptly.
Barack Obama, more than any public figure in modern political history, inspires this transforming movement because what he offers is desired and authentic. Being the uniter is who he is, and what he does.
In the general election Obama will champion economic policies that appeal to workers of all races, security policies that provide far stronger support for veterans than do those offered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and justice policies that will not trigger the political civil war that McCain promises by offering the Supreme Court to the radical right.
Those who underestimate the appeal of the uniter do not understand America in 2008, or a free world that yearns to applaud and admire an American president once again.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then-chief deputy whip of the House. He serves on the Advisory Council of the Intelligence Summit and as contributing editor of Fighting Dems News Service. He can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.