Obama's Unfresh Movement

The New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier on the Obama campaign:

…”False hopes?” Obama told a crowd in New Hampshire. “There’s no such thing.” How dare he? There is almost no more commonplace trait of human existence (and of African American existence) than false hopes. I want universal health care, but I do not want to be relieved of the little that I have understood, and learned to accept, about the recalcitrance of the world. After Bush, who is not for a fresh start? But there is something unfresh about Obama’s movement for freshness. We have been this young before. “She starts old, old,” [D.H.]Lawrence wrote, in his discussion of the Leatherstocking Tales, “wrinkled and writhing in an old skin. And there is a gradual sloughing off of the old skin, towards a new youth. It is the myth of America.” So can we agree on a ground between cynicism and myth? Or must we have Camelot once more? After all, being young again is also a way of living in the past. There was something mildly farcical about the Kennedys’ endorsement of Obama-of this candidacy that is alleged to signify an alternative to the dynasties, and a break with ideological antiquity; but worst of all was its brazen delight in mythologization. (Thanks to the Obama campaign, millions of Americans now hold that John Kennedy was a great president and that Lyndon Johnson was not responsible for making civil rights and voting rights into law.) I understand that no one, except perhaps Lincoln, ever ran for the presidency on a tragic sense of life; but if it is possible to be too old in spirit, it is possible also to be too young.

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