Monday, November 3, 2008

The Closer

I do not pretend to have done nearly as much as I intended to, but this is New Hampshire--arguably, a battleground state, where McCain is still admired--and my Boston-based daughter and I have just come back from canvassing a couple of dozen of my neighbors for the Obama campaign. I think it is safe to say that one fear many of us have had is misplaced: that the lopsided polls would engender a kind of complacency, and people who might otherwise have turned out for the Obama ticket would stay home, expecting to take a free ride on others.

Even people in their 90s greeted us with the moral equivalent of a high-five. Nobody asked for help to the polls, or needed to know where they were voting. The last time I sensed anything like this level of enthusiasm for an election was when Pierre Trudeau swept into office in Canada in 1968.

There are some obvious reasons for this. Bush. The economy, or at least the television version of it, since the worst effects have not yet been felt. The war. The pundits (who shouldn't be the only ones to have some fun). But I think there is something else. The candidate.

John Kenneth Galbraith once said that political revolutions come when someone kicks through a rotting door. It has been a year since we've started hearing that Obama lacked kick, that he was "O'bambi," too likely to be swift-boated in a non-bean-bag world, too much Kumbaya. Who would have thought that so many people in New Hampshire, for God's sake, could get such a kick out of tact and integrity.

My daughter (who is 25) came home with me moved. "You can't imagine what this means to me," she said, "after thinking my generation was utterly without political passion." I answered: "You can't imagine what this means to me, someone who wept all night when Martin Luther King was shot, and then stayed up numb when Bobby Kennedy was shot." "You win," she said.