May 12, 2008 on 2:49 am

If politics requires anything in a democracy such as ours it is nuance. Indeed, how else is the process to encompass so many views and perspectives, such differences in need and circumstance? We are a continent of cultures built on and from four centuries of discovery and immigration from every corner of the earth. As such, our country remains without historical precent.

It has been by nuance’s brighter and darker sides – discernment and cunning – that the differences among us have been managed and packaged into national political parties. And the quadrennial selection of a President, done and sworn to the protection and rights of all, is the clearest measure of our sucess. Indeed, it is something of a miracle to have managed this as well as we have for two and a quarter centuries, the one glaring exception a war of some four years duration that, in lives lost, remains our most costly.

It is in being able to work and maneuver within and among the obscure and the understood, the accepted and the emerging, the presumed and the resented that the great majority of the people have been able to get most, if not all, of what was possible at any given time. Even still, for most of the first two centuries of this nation’s existence, it was not possible for a Roman Catholic to be elected president. And until this year in which we now live, it was not possible for an American of African descent to be so elected. This is now clearly possible, if not indeed probable.

The founding principle of the American experience is this: We are each and all of us born equal. We have struggled and labored to live in the light of this principle. We displaced and treated dishonorably those native to this land. We had bought and enslaved one in five human beings living in this nation at the time of its founding and kept them such for near a century more. We repressed and abused the wretched and tossed who sought liberty on these shores. But the they continue to become the we. Not perfectly, to be sure, but for two generations it has at least been the law. And more than the law, it is now the expected, even by the resentful.  

However, recently we were told by the governor of Pennsylvania that this country is not yet ready for one of its black citizens to lead it, to be President of the United States. More surprising than such a public uttering by so elevated an official was the near absence of reaction to it. Nuance in such a public contest as we now engage would work with and around this claimed reality, one so at odds with the principle on which this nation was founded. It is quite another thing to speak it, and with the clear purpose of its continuing self-fulfillment.

Nuance is how leaders in a democracy lead in complexity and crisis. It is how truths and needs find accommodation until a better day. Regrettably, George W. Bush, as he himself tells us, does not do nuance. Nor, would it seem, does Sen. Clinton. She, in fact, slanders blacks by citing white Americans as hard working. She then warns all in her party that only she, presumably as white, can draw these hard working whites to certain victory in November. And in the closing weeks of a contest in which she is given only the slimmest chance of winning, she drives a racial stake between two of her own party’s key and traditional constituencies.

No. Hillary Clinton does not do nuance, of a brighter or darker sort. What Hillary Clinton does do, and with uncommon purpose, is to want to be president. In this quest, though, she says and does things, the more recent the more egregious, that disqualify her from consideration for the position.



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