Steve Chapman

From the moment he vaulted into national consciousness with his inspiring speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, this theme has lain at the heart of his approach and his appeal. "We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States," he reminded us then. "We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we've got some gay friends in the Red States."

It is a message of fundamental unity and good will, at a time when politics often resembles Henry Adams' mordant description: "the systematic organization of hatreds." And it has worked especially well for Obama for several reasons. One is that, as the son of an African father and a white, Kansas-born mother, he embodies the diversity of America.

Another is that it contrasts so starkly with the message of the opposing camp. You have Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) saying "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God." You have Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) suspecting the Democratic nominee is "anti-American." You have Sarah Palin saying she loves "what I call the real America [the] very pro-America areas of this great nation."

It's a strategy of fear and division, and it seems to be failing because Obama is not very scary and because the things that bind us together really are more powerful than the ones that push us apart.

Which brings us to the most important reason for the success of his message: It touches a chord that resonates not just across races and regions, but across more than two centuries of the republic's history. Whatever his errors, Obama's campaign and the followers it has inspired remind us of the essential meaning of America, captured in the motto adopted by the Founders: E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. Not: Out of many, two.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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