Wanting intensely to believe

January 7, 2008

Those who find something newly hopeful in this campaign are a wary lot. This may be especially true of voters my age, in our 20s in early 30s, who want intensely to believe, but are as primed for political disappointment as any young people could be. We savvy, media-schooled children of divorce, the disappointments of the 1960s and 1970s, and the markets-are-everything ethic of the 1990s are ready to see through cheap hope before a candidate has finished her stump speech. That’s why our hallmark has been not indifference, but morally pure causes such as human rights and direct service – those uncompromised devotions least likely to disappoint. Now we are taking a chance, in large numbers, and not alone. The first post-Iowa poll shows Obama up 10 points on Clinton in New Hampshire. The question may soon change to from whether he can win the Democratic nomination to whether he can persuade the country to elect him, then turn the language of unity and hope into a formula for governing. If so, he will at least have the privilege of appealing to a country he has already begun to change for the better.

Jedediah Purdy on the response to Barack Obama’s hopeful rhetoric. Hat tip: Andrew.

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