So if we’re truly going to have a conversation with each other, and if we’re going to engage in respectful debate, we’re going to have to get better at—and much more comfortable with—compromising. Those who voted for Obama, in particular, are going to have to get used to the idea that just because their guy won doesn’t make their opinions automatically more valid than those who voted for the guy who lost. And all of us are going to have to stop being so afraid of ideas themselves. As Joe Klein noted on Time’s Swampland blog, Warren’s invocation “will have zero—repeat, zero—impact on the policies of the Obama Administration.” But it may, he continued,
do some good, especially if it gives pause to all those people who think that I—and the crypto-Muslim Barack Obama—are going to hell…If it causes those folks to give the new President just the slightest credit for appreciating their worldview, if it causes them to give him the benefit of the doubt on controversial stuff like talking to the Iranians or universal health insurance, then it’s worth it. If it causes evangelicals to say, “Well, he’s not demonizing us, maybe we shouldn’t demonize him,” it’s worth it. If it makes Rush Limbaugh’s toxic blather about our next President seem even the slightest bit ridiculous and over-the-top to his idiot legion of ditto heads, it’s worth it.
So. Enough, please, of the indignation at Obama. There’ll be time for it, I’m sure—all politicians will disappoint their constituents sooner or later—but as far as Warren’s selection is concerned, such vitriol misses the broader point. We’ve elected ourselves a president who, by most indications, doesn’t see himself as beholden to individual groups or movements. That is rare, and to be celebrated. In choosing Warren to have a ceremonial role at his inauguration, Obama is starting, at least, to live up to the promise he made on the night he was elected to office:
In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.
Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.
Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.
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