Pause over this…

Not so long ago it looked like we were in for a vicious general election. The Republican candidates kept trying to one-up each other on how anti-immigrant and unwelcoming they could be. The Democrats were put on the defensive about not being vitriolic enough. It seemed like we were in for an election that was all about why we should bar the door against foreigners and strangers.

As the Democrats, pulled along by Edwards, moved more toward worrying about  poverty and those in need, the Republicans seemed to move even further right than Bush in blaming those in need for their own fate. As the divisions escalated, we seemed to be in for a hell of a divisive fight.

The amazing thing now seems to be that the American people wanted none of this crap. We have the evidence: the Republicans chose the most conciliatory, pro-immigration, anti-ideological of its candidates. The Democrats rejected the party standard-bearer in favor of a new voice wanting to reach out across ideological differences. It is actually conceivable, though maybe not advisable, that each nominee might choose as a V.P. candidate someone from the other party. And it is quite likely that they’ll even share the same ride to their debates. Has that ever happened?

I am not saying that McCain and Barama are alike. They are as different in policy means and goals as any two candidates could be. As a Texan, I’d vote for a yellow dog before I voted for McCain. And I hope any other Democrat would do the same.

What I am stunned by is what the voice of the American people seems to have uttered: we want candidates who are so willing to solve problems that they will cross party lines; we want a politics that will bring people together; we want a politics that is welcoming, conscientious, and accountable to citizens rather than lobbies.

Just as there were many themes that Obama and Clinton shared, there are many that Obama and McCain share. There’s plenty that puts them apart, but we should take time to pause now and marvel at this new turn of events and what it says about what the American people want: a different kind of politics, a country that is welcoming and a model for the kinds of values that have sparked admiration around the world. Part of the credit for this climatic change goes indeed to McCain and Obama, but I’d like to suggest that the bulk of it goes to the American people, fed up with politics as usual, ready for a different kind of politics.

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.

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