As for whether the [Obama] campaign is comparable to other great movements in American history, it is obvious to me that it is not. That's not to say a progressive movement doesn't exist, but the Obama campaign is a slightly unorthodox political campaign (more orthodox by the day) with an historic candidate, which isn't the same thing. They may merge at some point, depending on how Obama chooses to govern, but at this point, I think the 21st century progressive movement (such as it is) will work outside the administration and on the edges of the Democratic party for some time. The institutional torpor of the party and the internalization of the belief that conservatism is a default setting of the American political soul means that it's going to take more time than I had hoped. If the professionals can't make a strong and creative case for progressive rule after the spectacular Republican meltdown during the Bush years, then it's clear they have a long way to go.
Any Democrat would be at least marginally better than John McCain and Republican hegemony so I'm not particularly moved by the question of whether we are being led by a savior or a disappointment at this point. I just want to ensure that we don't have another psycho running things. I am interested in whether this nascent progressive movement can actually coalesce into something meaningful by gathering enough political power and cultural heft to actually do something. At this point I have no earthly idea if that will happen but I'm fascinated by the prospect.
I'm willing to be proved wrong by events as they come, but I expect that, as a general rule, a President Obama won't take the lead on most progressive agenda items until he's dragged there. My slim hopes for progressive reform increasingly hang on House and Senate races.
Now there's a sobering thought.