Four years ago we seemed to take a shortcut to some kind of national redemption. The same nation that enslaved African Americans until 1865 and imposed a vicious century-long regime of segregation and everyday abuse upon them elected an African American to its presidency. The same nation that elected twelve slave masters to its presidency elected a president whose wife was a descendant of American slaves. The same nation that never would have elected a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement to national office fulfilled some of the movement’s most idealistic hymnody. The same nation that made “USA” synonymous with imperial smashing in Iraq and torturing prisoners at Guantánamo made a bid to dramatically change its international image.

We elected an inspiring, eloquent, dignified, reflective type who understood very well that his candidacy offered, and rested upon, a series of shortcuts. Politics is always...

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