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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Making History

Talleyrand is thinking of his American friends as they stand on the eve of what they consider to be the most important presidential election in decades. If they go ahead and choose Obama as predicted, the goodwill of the world will surely come their way. But how long will it last? The so-called honeymoon question is the one everyone seems to be asking. But it is not the one that most worries Talleyrand.

Obama’s biggest headaches will probably happen at home. Especially if his party continues to control the Congress and an increasing number of state legislatures. Americans don’t stand a single-party state for very long: just ask the Republicans who controlled the Congress under George Bush. A partial or even serious reversal of the Democratic Party’s fortunes with the mid-term elections in 2010 may not be such a bad thing for Obama.

What happens domestically between now and then is another story. This campaign has brought out some of the ugliest aspects of American politics, even more than usual. Sealing them back up in their bottles will take a great deal of effort—political, moral, spiritual and symbolic. And it won’t be helped by an angry, divided and resentful Republican minority with very little power for the first time in many years.

For all that sober Democrats urge Obama to remain mindful of 9-11 and the many threats around the world, he would also do well to keep another flash card visible on his desk: remember Oklahoma City. It is not a happy burden.

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