Once in a generation, an opportunity comes along -- not just for the Democratic Party, but for the United States of America -- to build a new majority for change. Barack Obama's candidacy offers us that opportunity. As Democrats, and as Americans, we must seize it.
This moment in history is marked by the magnitude of our challenges. Our nation is fighting a war in Iraq that has made us less safe. Our planet is imperiled by a global climate crisis that we have done little to combat. Our economy is sliding toward a recession. Wages aren't keeping pace, as the cost of everything from health care to college is rising. Whether it's a world-class education, a secure mortgage or a dignified retirement, too many Americans are seeing their dreams slip out of reach.Much of the blame lies with the Bush administration. That is one reason why Democrats have made gains in recent years, and that is why -- in this election -- Democrats have a historic opportunity to win over independents and Republicans. But we must understand that it's not just George Bush's policies that Americans are fed up with -- it's decades of political polarization in Washington that has stood in the way of progress.
As Democrats from so-called Red States, we know that the way to win elections is not just by blaming Mr. Bush, or building campaigns focused on beating the other side -- it's by bringing people together. Americans are fed up with a divisive brand of politics that is more about scoring points than solving problems. To win in November -- and to govern this country -- we should not choose to be a party that extends an era of bitter partisanship; we must be the party that ends it.
Barack Obama is running for president to do just that. His life's work has been dedicated to bringing people together around a common purpose. As a community organizer, he bridged divides of race and class to fight for jobs for the jobless on the streets of Chicago. As a state senator, he brought Republicans and Democrats together to expand health care and provide a tax cut for working families. And as a U.S. senator, he worked across the aisle to secure loose nuclear materials around the world, and took on powerful interests in both parties to draft and pass the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate.
Mr. Obama has lit a spark that has not been seen in American politics in a long time. In the divisive 2004 election, Mr. Obama's call for national unity was a light in our political darkness. In 2006, Mr. Obama was called to campaign for Democrats in states like Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Virginia. No other Democrat running for president can make that claim. His unique ability to draw votes -- not just for himself, but for down-ticket Democrats -- makes him an obvious choice to lead the Democratic Party to success in the Congress, and in statehouses and state legislatures.
In his campaign, Mr. Obama has built a movement for change from the bottom up. He draws enormous crowds. He has shattered fundraising records, with some 650,000 contributors and a seemingly limitless ability to tap small donors. He has inspired a flood of new voters, particularly young Americans. He's reached independents and Republicans who have voted for him by large margins. He's won with a diverse coalition, scoring decisive wins in the demographically different states of Iowa and South Carolina. And as the campaign goes national, polls show that the more voters see of Mr. Obama, the more they support him.
Americans are responding to Mr. Obama for more than his personality; they know we need a new kind of leadership in Washington to make progress. Not only does Mr. Obama have a plan to make health care affordable for every American, he'll be able to bring Democrats, Republicans and independents together to actually get it done. Not only does Mr. Obama have a plan to give all of our children a world-class education from early childhood through college, he'll be able to work with governors in all 50 states to make it happen. Not only is Mr. Obama committed to capping emissions and developing new sources of energy, he'll be honest and open about what we have to do, and take on the special interests to end our addiction to oil.
On national security, Mr. Obama has shown the judgment and conviction to be right from day one. The way to win in November isn't by matching the Republicans with tough talk -- it's by being right. In Mr. Obama, Americans will have a leader who can end a war in Iraq that he opposed from the beginning; a leader who knows it is right to support our troops when we are at war, and it is right to support our veterans when they return home; a leader with the conviction to conduct diplomacy with our adversaries as well as our friends. In Mr. Obama, they'll see a leader who can restore our security and standing, and lead the world against the threats of the 21st century.
No matter how Democrats vote in this election, they will make history. The choice is not between race and gender. It is between the past and the future. We know the Republicans will try to unite their party by fighting the old partisan battles. If we choose Mr. Obama as our nominee, the Republicans won't be able to make this election about the past because we will have already chosen the future -- a nominee who can bring all of us together, push back against the special interests, and offer leadership that is honest, open and inspiring.
For the sake of our party and our country, we cannot let this opportunity pass. Now is the time to build a coalition of Democrats, independents and Republicans that finally stretches across Red States and Blue States. Now is the time for us to have the courage to choose to change. Now is the time for Barack Obama.
Ms. Napolitano is governor of Arizona, Ms. Sebelius is governor of Kansas, and Ms. McCaskill is a U.S. senator from Missouri.
originally published in the Wall Street Journal