The Joshua Generation

David Remnick has a terrific essay in the New Yorker reflecting on Obama’s campaign and the role that race played in it. As with everything Remnick writes, it’s beautifully crafted and thoughtful. It ends like this:

Just a few minutes before eleven last Tuesday night, when Barack and Michelle Obama and their daughters walked out on the stage at Grant Park, and everyone around was screaming, chanting, and waving flags, the long campaign came to an end. Joy was in the faces of the people all around me, there was crying and shouting, but Obama seemed to bear a certain gravity, his voice infused not with jubilation but with a sense of the historical moment.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” he began.

Obama had done it one last time. Having cast himself in Selma twenty months ago as one who stood on the “shoulders of giants,” as the leader of the Joshua generation, he hardly had to mention race. It was the thing always present, the thing so rarely named. He had simultaneously celebrated identity and pushed it into the background. “Change has come to America,” Obama declared, and everyone in a park remembered until now as the place where, forty summers ago, police did outrageous battle with antiwar protesters knew what change had come, and that—how long? too long—it was about damned time.

The same issue also has an interesting article by David Grann pondering how John McCain — a fundamentally decent man by all accounts — will recover from running a campaign which betrayed all his former principles about not taking “the low road” adopted by George Bush and Karl Rove when they destroyed his Primary campaign in 2000. Did his graceful concession speech come too late to rescue his self-respect? How can he live with himself, given the way his campaign developed into the hate-fest of the last few weeks? We will see.