We are witnessing something remarkable here: Obama's race is receding as he becomes more familiar. His steadiness has trumped his skin color; he is being judged on the content of his character. But there is a real challenge — and opportunity — inherent in his success. Obama has taken some inspired risks in this campaign. His willingness to propose more governmental control of the health-care market is a prime example. But he has also been very cautious, a typical politician in many ways. The most obvious is in his resolute unwillingness to deliver bad news or make any significant demands on the public. Neither he nor McCain had anything but platitudes to offer when asked what sacrifices they would ask of the American people. Worse, when Brokaw asked if he thought the economy was going to get worse before it gets better, Obama flatly said, "No. I'm confident about the economy."
That was, no doubt, the politic answer. But not the correct one. Obama was underestimating the public's capacity to hear the truth — which is odd, since the national desire for substance, the unwillingness to be diverted by "lipstick on a pig" trivialities, has been so striking in this campaign. Everyone knows this recession is going to hurt, that there will be a price for our profligacy and that some hard shoveling will be necessary to get out of this hole. Indeed, that knowledge is what has made Obama's success possible. But if he wants to do more than merely succeed, if he wants to govern successfully, he is going to have to trust the people as much as they are beginning to trust him. After years of happy talk from politicians, that is the change we really need.
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