This leaves one viable candidate on either side. They are the least afraid and the most hopeful. They are Obama and John McCain, the Republican senator and Vietnam war hero. Yes, McCain’s experience has emerged as a great strength in an unstable world. But what remains impressive about his candidacy is that he has taken positions that are more forward-looking than many of his younger rivals.
McCain is the only Republican eager to address climate change. Faced with a Republican base furious about illegal immigration, he stuck to his view that illegal immigrants needed to be assimilated and even defended a bill that he authored with Ted Kennedy, the Democrat senator, to achieve this. He also bravely said that America does not need to torture prisoners and that the war in Iraq can be won. As the candidate of honour, he also became a candidate of hope ”“ especially in Iraq. He has seen his numbers surge recently in New Hampshire and, if he can prevent Romney getting momentum, he still has a chance to pull it off.
Obama, of course, based his entire candidacy on the title of his campaign book, The Audacity of Hope. The fearful have every reason to look elsewhere. If you do not believe that a black man can be president; if you do not believe that America can risk talking to Iran’s leadership or withdrawing from Iraq without losing the wider war; if you think it’s naive to hope that the polarising culture war of the past 40 years can ever end; if you doubt that a man with a name like Obama who once attended a secular madrasah in Indonesia can ever win a majority of US votes, you really should vote for Clinton.