Readers of a certain age might remember the story, c. 1967, in which a disillusioned conservative voter recalls the previous presidential election. “They told me if I voted for Goldwater, we’d have half-a-million troops in Vietnam. Well, I did –- and they were right.”
Democracy is a gamble. Presidents promise peace and deliver war, advocate humility and practice arrogance, promote morality and act corruptly.
Still, elections, like second marriages, represent the triumph of hope over experience. Through our votes we place our trust in a flawed human being and pray our victorious candidate will embody in correct proportions the virtues of prudence and wisdom, charity and courage, foresight and empathy, right reason and determination. Let it be so.
President-elect Obama based his campaign on “hope,” which made him subject to both ridicule (the term being far too ambiguous to his many critics) and praise, particularly for those who saw the first credible African-American presidential candidate as a personal embodiment of the change this country needs.