US presidential election One nation

Mr Obama’s victory speech was some stirring stuff. Oratory is back. Words mean and even change things. It was hard not to be moved by it. Above all and true to his words, he has flung the ‘one nation’ banner: unity above many divisions that exist in the US. The intertwining of timeless ‘values’, some universal and some particularly American, and historical ‘progresses’, overcoming past injustices and differences, made this moment unique but also a starting-point for Mr Obama in his presidency: hopeful and with a message that ‘change’ is an on-going process and a state of mind, not tied to time or to person. It will be a difficult political narrative to oppose for the Republicans, who have to come up with something better than reflex opposition and divisiveness.

In conceding, Mr McCain reverted to Mr McCain I knew: a decent patriot. By temperament, I believe he is a ‘one nation’ politician as well. He made the strategical decision to opt for a divisive campaign to appeal to the Republican base, and picked a running mate who was ideologically committed to division. The dichotomy of ‘true’ and ‘false / anti- / liberal / socialist / palling around with terrorists’ Americans resulted, which was nasty and confirmed all that was scary about American politics. Ms Palin remains popular with those who are splitters than lumpers. If she were to stand in 2012, would she change her narrative? Doubtful.