notes nov 23

November 24, 2008 § Leave a comment

The American Future

Review by Niall Ferguson

Published: October 3 2008 21:34 | Last updated: October 3 2008 21:34

The American Future: A History
By Simon Schama
The Bodley Head £20, 400 pages
FT Bookshop price: £16

…yet this road trip is also an inspiring and illuminating work of history, a reflection on the essence of America with a bedrock of deep knowledge behind the bebop prose.

It is, as immediately becomes apparent, a work of the moment and makes no secret of its author’s political preferences. The moment “when American democracy came back from the dead”, Schama begins, was when Barack Obama won the Democratic caucuses in Iowa last January. To the author, Obama’s comet-like ascent promises nothing less than “a democratic restoration”. Listening to Obama speak, Schama hears Cicero mingled with Martin Luther King, Jr. He is, writes Schama, “the fruit of [King’s] planting; the pay-off of his sacrifice”.

Yet of all the homages to “the One” that I have read, this is the one with the most solid foundation. What Schama sees in Obama is the personification of a liberal America that can trace its roots back as far as the founding fathers, and even the pilgrims before them.

As November’s election approaches, amid the greatest financial crisis to hit the United States since the Depression, it seems increasingly probable that Schama will get his political wish. Whether or not an Obama presidency can live up to his ecstatic expectations remains to be seen. But when “The One” finally comes off the road and settles himself, weary but triumphant, into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, I hope he will have this book on his bedside table. A more inspiring evocation of the spirit of liberal America – past, present and future – does not exist.

another example of hope, and "since the depression."


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