TORONTO, ONTARIO - One of the most significant arguments used by supporters of candidate Barack Obama as he ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 against Hillary Clinton was his embodiment of the modern United States. Rather than nominating someone from the political elite (a former first lady, even if she would have been the first female president), the Democratic party could nominate someone who had risen from community organizing to become a senator and who, simply by being born as the child of a white mother and African father, was symbolic of the multi-racial reality of the nation. By emphasizing "one America" rhetoric in his speeches, Obama reinforced this aspect of his being and created hope that he could bring to an end what had been the most divisive and partisan era in the nation's modern history.
So much for that. Those that feared heightened fierce partisanship if Hillary Clinton were elected President have watched as the election of the greatest potential healer in the nation's history has instead led to unprecedented levels of division. Rather than ending the great partisan divide of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush years, Obama has presided over new heights of partisanship. It is hard to imagine that it could have been any worse had Hillary Clinton been elected.
However, just as Hillary Clinton remains as a possible future Democratic candidate for president today, Obama would have remained had Clinton won the nomination. The partisanship that exists today would have been viewed as a result of her victory and the history of the Bill Clinton administration, and it would appear that the healing Barack Obama could still transcend the poison in the future and usher in a new era.
Instead, we know no one leader will ever accomplish what some hoped Obama would help do. George W. Bush came in talking about being a "uniter, not a divider" and that didn't happen. Barack Obama wanted there to be "no red America and no blue America" and instead the red have gotten redder and the blue have gotten bluer. Leaders cannot go where the people they are leading do not want to go.
There is no incentive for either political party to compromise--and while the system may be distorted and manipulated to exaggerate and reinforce those incentives, in the end it comes down to a fundamental reality: The people don't want the nation to heal. Until that changes, the United States will not be one nation. It will continue to be divided, and the hyper-partisanship will continue. Don't look for an super-Obama--it has to come from below, and I don't even hear a remote scent of such a movement.