Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Hopeful Celebration

I live in Washington, DC. It's not the town I'm originally from (a long story), but it's now my hometown after eight years here. And this town is filling up rapidly for the celebration that began last night and will continue through Wednesday.

Note the eight years. My time here has overlapped entirely with the Bush presidency. It has been a time in which many people here - thousands and thousands of whom are genuinely committed to good government - have had to swallow their hope in the potential of the US government. These eight years have been a time of cronyism and incompetence throughout the administration, bloated security everywhere in the city, and a sense of futility and shame in a leadership no one trusts except perhaps those who have benefited so handsomely from the outgoing administration.

This is about to change, and maybe the main reason it's about to change is because the new President Obama has explicitly devoted himself to democratic accountability. We'll have to hold him to that. Over the past eight years a presidency antithetical to democratic accountability has bored holes in our hope for decent government. Obama's giving us a chance to repair ourselves.

This may not be the greatest presidency if you're an ideologue. We progressives can hope for a lot more than we've had over the past decade or two or three, but we'll have to do so as pragmatic progressives in the sense in which I discussed Obama and philosophical pragmatism earlier. I'm not a pollyannish guy, but I think we can be genuinely hopeful that our thought and work and decency can be met by a receptive government and real policy change. From my perspective here in DC, you can sense this here apart from Obama himself. The right people are coming into office from the top on down, and the lights have gone back on in the minds and souls of many of DC's career public servants. It really does feel like Bush's Middle Ages to Obama's Renaissance.

This is a very real opportunity for all of us and, for this long weekend, a cause for celebration. Cheers.

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