Yesterday, scottro posted this (in a friends-locked entry, which I'm quoting with permission):
Nothing to see here. Time to go back to living your lives like nothing is changing.
Scott's wrong. I firmly believe that, and yet it's taken me a while to be able to articulate why he's wrong.
Obama inspires people. Hope and optimism are powerful things. If he becomes a great president, it won't be because of what he's done so much as what he inspires other people to do. Change is generally incremental, not quantum. It comes not from one large effort, but from a lot of tiny little efforts that add up to something bigger.
"Nothing is changing" is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you firmly believe that, then you won't make an effort to change things. You won't look for solutions, or think about ways to improve the world. Doom and gloom inspire doom and gloom. You won't solve problems that you don't believe can be solved.
If you believe that change is possible, you see the world differently. You think about ways to solve problems, ways to make things better. You make just a little bit of effort to make the world a better place. You probably won't come up with dramatic solutions to complex problems, but maybe you'll help clean up the neighborhood park. Maybe you'll spend a few hours painting the community center. Maybe you'll help someone out just a little bit more than you would otherwise.
Obama's true strength lies in numbers. If one person sits to think about a complex problem he probably won't come up with a solution. Ten people thinking about the problem probably won't solve it. What about a million people? If a million people think about the same problem, one of them will probably come up with an insight that everyone else has overlooked-- and he did it because he thought things could be better. He'll share his insight with others, and they'll be more receptive to his arguments because they too think things can be better.
And now ten people see a way that things can improve, and maybe they do just a little bit to make things better. Maybe they each tell ten people, and those ten people do just a little bit. Eventually you wind up with a million people, each believing that there's a better way and doing just a tiny bit to make it happen.
How did Obama come from behind to win the election? He inspired a tremendous grass-roots effort. Hell, he got jpmassar to go out and campaign, and I'm sure that nobody was more surprised by that than JP. His choice of "Yes we can" as a campaign slogan was brilliant. "We" is a powerful word, and one that defies the laws of mathematics by being bigger than the sum of its parts.
Do I think that Obama is the messiah? No. Does he shit gold bricks and fart rainbows? No. Is he the answer to all our problems? No, of course not. Does he inspire people, make them hopeful? Yes, absolutely. The reason Obama can be a great president is because he helps lots of people to believe that things can be better, and believing is what makes it possible.
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