by THE INLANDER & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hey keep telling us this is an historic election. A black man or a woman have a shot at becoming president. Yes, that's momentous, but what's just as historic is how many former presidents are hovering over the proceedings -- JFK, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton.

Every election is about history, and our recent experience with the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush has voters thinking very carefully about how we can better understand our past so we don't relive the bad parts. Bush has put the country through some of that bad history again -- LBJ-style war-fumbling, Nixon-style super-secrecy and Bush I-style economy-crushing.

This election is historic, not so much for the race and gender issues in play as it is for more basic questions about judgment, competence and which lessons we've learned. But this election, like all of them, should be about the future.

And on the Democratic side, there is one candidate alone who would have the nation look to the future, not the past. One candidate who can start to lead us past old divisions. One candidate who can force us to push that national reset button so we can get back to being the greatest nation on Earth.

Another chapter in American history is coming to an end, and we are faced with a choice: Should we go back and relive some of those old passages or should we read on? Barack Obama is the only candidate who can turn the page and start an entirely new chapter in America's history. Barack Obama is the best choice for president.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & y her very nature, Hillary Clinton is a creature of the past. Having served two terms as First Lady during one of the most divisive political times since the Civil War, she carries a lot of baggage. This is not entirely her fault, and she has been a fine public servant and role model, but it is what it is. A Hillary Clinton campaign will put the nation through an ugly replay of everything that was wrong with the 1990s. To say otherwise, as she often does, is wishful thinking. And there are other instances of wishful thinking that bear further scrutiny as voters in Washington consider their choices.

"No matter who the nominee is, the Democratic Party will be united and strong." This is simply not true. Since the Republican Party seems to be nominating their most moderate choice, John McCain, independent-minded Democrats and Independents in general will have a choice. Obama would secure many more of those voters than would Clinton.

"The Bill Clinton presidency was a success every Democrat remembers fondly." Again, not true. While pundits are courteous enough not to talk about the Clinton impeachment very much, it's impossible to ignore. For all the good things Bill Clinton did, he lied under oath. Perhaps we could move on had it not been so ultimately disastrous. During that time, when Republicans pounced and took the nation's eye off the ball, Osama bin Laden plotted the 9/11 attacks. Then, when Al Gore should have waltzed into his own term, and potentially tackled American dependence on foreign oil (for starters), the specter of Clinton's crime hung so heavy that candidate Gore was trapped in his own little lockbox. When history is written, people will wonder why Bill Clinton didn't simply resign, thus securing his legacy -- and the nation's continued progress -- through Gore, who would have run in 2000 as the sitting president.

"It doesn't matter who you vote for, because Obama and Clinton will team up on a dream ticket." Not gonna happen. Obama will not choose to share vice presidential duties with Bill Clinton, and, for the reasons stated here, he would not pick Hillary Clinton as his own running mate. (Obama would almost certainly select a vice presidential candidate with a solid national defense/foreign policy background.)

"Hillary can really bring change because she knows how government works." Only after she "found her voice" in New Hampshire (35 years into public life) did Clinton embrace the message of change that has powered Obama's rise. But with political action committee money, lobbyists and Wall Street fueling her campaign, you only need to follow the money to see what degree of change the United States would be in for under Clinton. And on the major issue of the day -- the war in Iraq -- she was slow to match Obama's call for responsible redeployment of our troops. Political calculation and strategic triangulation will not enable the kind of change we need. We need bold strokes, the kind only a president who is a force for unity can bring.

"Electing Obama is just too risky." There's risk everywhere in every election. Who could have guessed that when George W. Bush said he was against nation building he really meant he was for it? We're not reckless or stupid, but yes, taking risks means we do make mistakes. But by being a nation of risk takers from the very start, we have created progress and had become the world's shining light. So let's review: Declaring independence? Risky. Betting the Republic we could end slavery? Risky. Sticking our necks out militarily to help our friends? Risky. Marching from Selma to Montgomery to enforce the Constitution? Risky.

This is no time to start to get too afraid -- as the song says, people, we live in the home of the brave.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n the end, this election is about both history -- and being inspired by it -- and the future -- and being excited for it. Inspiration and excitement, abstract as they may be, are central to the American experience. If Obama is the focal point for all that pent-up American longing for all that is right and good, so be it. History also teaches us that soaring rhetoric can be an almost cosmic force, so let's listen again to some of Obama's words after he won the South Carolina primary on Jan. 26.

"There are those who will continue to tell us that we can't do this, that we can't have what we're looking for, that we can't have what we want, that we're peddling false hopes. But here is what I know. I know that when people say we can't overcome all the big money and influence in Washington, I think of that elderly woman who sent me a contribution the other day, an envelope that had a money order for $3.01 along with a verse of scripture tucked inside the envelope. So don't tell us change isn't possible. That woman knows change is possible... Don't tell me we can't change.

"Yes, we can. Yes, we can change. Yes, we can.

"Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future... while we breathe, we will hope.

"And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words -- yes, we can."

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