Who could have predicted a year ago that the once-inevitable candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton would run neck and neck with a junior senator from Illinois? Indeed, Barack Obama’s candidacy possesses something unique.

Children growing up today must find it hard to imagine a time when Democrats and Republicans actually got along. Seldom will a politician of either party reach across the aisle and work together on passing a particular piece of legislation. After all, that would run the risk of being painted as a closeted neo-con – or even worse, a Liberal. If this sounds corny, it only proves how jaded our generation has become over our government’s ability to work effectively. No wonder one hears so much talk in this election about “change.” Change from the “You’re-with-us-or-against-us” Bush Doctrine. Change from the “divide and conquer” campaign tactics of Karl Rove. Whoever becomes the next president of the United States will be elected for their seeming ability to be, as Bush himself once put it: “A uniter, not a divider.”

Although decidedly liberal in his positions, Obama possesses a remarkable ability to appeal to left and right alike. His recent praise of Ronald Reagan’s leadership was no accident – America has not known a politician this gifted at uniting people from both parties since the Great Communicator himself. He enjoys the largest support from Republicans and Independents of any Democratic candidate. Barack Obama is the sort of politician fond of saying things like, “There is no red America or blue America. There is only a United States of America.”

Opponents accuse Obama of being all rhetoric without any substance – quite the contrary. A Washington Post op-ed written just last week declared Obama’s “intelligently designed” economic stimulus plan the “head of the class,” and earned a grade of A minus – the highest grade given to any of the candidates.

The truth is, few differences separate the Democratic candidates on policy. The real question to ask is which candidate can bring both sides of Congress to pass these issues. Obama’s belief in possessing this ability is reflected not just in his speeches, but also in how he phrases his policies.

On health care, for example, Clinton and John Edwards routinely attack Obama’s proposed plan for lacking “universal coverage.” They are right: It does not. The federally mandated health insurance proposed by Clinton and Edwards would have to go through our 49 percent Republican Congress first. Obama’s proposal to create a national health insurance program only for those without employer-provided insurance and who disqualify for other federal programs is a more realistic assessment of the needs of both parties.

We have not seen anything in the campaigns of Clinton and Edwards to suggest they hold the same interest in mending our partisan divide. The fire and brimstone John Edwards unleashes against big business, which makes us wonder how willing he would be to listen to the needs of businesses as president. Hillary Clinton is a brilliant tactician, and no doubt her knowledge of policy is second to none. But, as a uniting figure, we feel she would be no more effective than President George W. Bush. Her campaign’s blatant distortions of Obama’s record and racially-tinged comments have already devolved the Democratic primary into a battle of brown against black, man against woman and young against old. If Clinton happened to win the general election, it would likely be by a narrow margin over the course of an equally bitter campaign. Pundits on TV would either criticize her every flaw or eviscerate anyone who stood in her way. How are we any better off than we were four years ago?

Enough is enough. Barack Obama provides an opportunity to prevent four more years of fighting the same battles. As he is fond of saying, it is time to turn the page.