Today America welcomes Barack Obama as the first black president in its 232-year history. How should conservatives think about these events?Incidentally, and as an aside, becoming a conservative is what happens to all "good" radicals.
First we have to recognize and then understand that whatever happens in the Obama presidency, this Inauguration Day is a watershed moment in the history of America and a remarkable event in the history of nations, and thus a cause for all of us who love this country, conservative and liberal, Democrat and Republican, to celebrate.
Second, in order to do this as conservatives -- as conservatives who have been through the culture wars -- we need to get past the mixed feelings we will inevitably have as the nation marks its progress in moving away from the racial divisions and divisiveness of the past. These feelings come not from resistance to the change, but from the knowledge that this celebration should have taken place decades ago and that its delay was not least because our opponents saw political advantage in playing the race card against us and making us its slandered targets.
If we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday at a time of presidential inaugurals, this is thanks to Ronald Reagan who created the holiday, and not to the Democratic Congress of the Carter years, which rejected it. If Americans now have accepted an African American to lead their country in war and peace that is in part because an hysterically maligned Republican made two African Americans his secretaries of state. And if, after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts, race has continued to be a divisive factor in our politics over the last 40 years that is because the generation of Sharpton and Jackson and their liberal supporters have made it so. . . .
Only time will tell how successfully Obama manages to unite the nation in the face of the crises and enemies which confront it. . . . But today celebrating their new president are millions of Americans who never would have dreamed of celebrating their president before. Millions of Americans -- visible in all their racial and ethnic variety at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday -- have begun to feel a patriotic stirring because they see in this First Family a reflection of themselves.
The change is still symbolic and may not last. A lot depends on what President Obama will do, which is not a small question given how little is still known about this man and how little tested he remains. Some of this patriotism may be of the sunshine variety -- in for a day or a season, when the costs are not great. Or more cynically: in to show that their hatred for America is really just another form of political "dissent." Yet whatever the nature of these changes they cannot for now be discounted. Consider: When President Obama commits this nation to war against the Islamic terrorists, as he already has in Afghanistan, he will take millions of previously alienated and disaffected Americans with him, and they will support our troops in a way that most of his party has refused to support them until now. When another liberal, Bill Clinton went to war from the air, there was no anti-war movement in the streets or in his party's ranks to oppose him. That is an encouraging fact for us in the dangerous world we confront.
If it seems unfair that Barack Obama should be the source of a new patriotism -- albeit of untested mettle -- life is unfair. If the Obama future is uncertain and fraught with unseen perils, conservatives can deal with those perils as they come. What matters today is that many Americans have begun to join their country's cause, and conservatives should celebrate that fact and encourage it.
The "bad" ones go to work as "professors" of "elementary education" at the University of Illinois at Chicago and ghostwrite books for successful politicians.
(h/t Scott L.)
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