Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

WHO Obama IS

Well, David Brooks thinks he knows, and that all Barack has to do to win is show us. He’s a 21th century man, multicultural and global, no experience (which means he’s not burdened by the past), but all promise and potential. He’ll lead us into a world where force and power and prejudice and partisanship and even competitive markets fade away. He’ll lead us with his beautiful words into the postpolitical fantasy already inhabited by Europe with our singular cyber-techno-iphone twist, a world in which soft power and bourgeois bohemian are no longer oxymorons. McCain, a good man, is also an old man, a 20th century man, a pre-cyber man way out of touch. There’s a real "culture wars" issue here that Mac could exploit, one that David actually may be setting up for him.

Discussions - 19 Comments

"Obama’s chief problem in this campaign is that large numbers of voters still don’t know who he is. "

Groan. More of this tiresome nonsense? Does Brooks have any proof whatsoever to support this assertion? Nothing could be further from the truth! Obama has received limitless media coverage and huge amounts of funding. People know EXACTLY who he is. And aside from the far left and Hollywood - they don't like him.

Peter, how does this portrait or personna connect with Obama's demonstrated liberalism? Are the two, one? Is there overlap, but differences at both ends? If differences, which trumps? (His voting record and Stanley Kurtz-investigated Chicago consorts indicate that radicalism trumps nonpartisanism.) And finally, doesn't progressivism always need "reaction" against which "to fight"? In other words, isn't Brooks' portrait an Obama made (even more) young-and-beautiful than he is and in the face of a much more complex reality? And what is the lode-star of Obama's ambition (his little engine that could)? Or is his self like the newly emergent cosmopolitan in being deeply narcissistic, since the globalized world in truth revolves around him and his needs, his palette of identities? In other words, doesn't cosmopolitanism get the Messiah it desires? But as Tocqueville said, ambitious men start with their self-interest, then find a cause and a party to affix to their ambition.

Good luck on your panels; enjoy the apsa.

Well thats some David Brooks advice that should live in infamy. Maybe it would make sense if Obama was runnig for President of the EU. Obama's original appeal (in 2004) was that he he was able to transcend the bitterness of the culture war fights of the last forty years(since he was not party to them and bore ill will toward nobody)while still remaining basically a liberal on policy. Obama's refusal to define America by its culture war divisions made him in that sense more American, since most Americans don't think of their country as defined into armed camps. One of Obama's challenges is to create a message of post partisanship that is not more "European" but more American- one that identifies postpartisanship with the things that most people actually like about the current America, not what leftists would like to like about an America that does not yest exist.

One of the things that sunk Kerry in 2004 was his connection to the most politically self destructive parts of 1980s liberalism. The votes against middle class tax cuts and the votes against weapon system after weapon system (which provided such fodder for Zell Miller's keynote speech). Obama's record - because it is so recent - does not have that vulnerability. That is why conservatives are so focused on Obama's associations. Ayers, and Wright play the role of Kerry's Senate record. They tie Obama to the left.

Abstract out the race thing, which is admittedly impossible, since we wouldn't have heard of Obama without that Kenyan father. (An Indonesian father, like his half-sister's, wouldn't have cut it.) What is he? He's a techno-progressive. He's post-boomer, and so he can be COOL about his progressivism, not boomer-bitter-remembering-how-awful-segregation-and-McCarthyism-and-was-and-how-hard-we-had-to-fight-the-Nixonite-retrogrades. His progressivism is defacto, assumed, and one needn't make a capital case out of it. The easier side of FDR is the strategic model, screaming all-is-at-stake-right-now 60s radicals are the strategic anti-model. You work with the America you have, but luckily, the young ones are with you. They've been properly educated and thus know that while the likes of Rev. Wright are a bad models for being effective, that 90% of their beef against America was until fairly recently just all too true. And it's still true about those conservative forces, who remain a real threat. But time is on your side...you glance at those internetted youth and know that the progressive politicians won't have to be making so many noises about "faith," "moral values," and "America" twenty years down the line, so long as you do your part. Wright with his black-identity and faith-community creds, and the likes of Ayers and the Chicago machine with their political favors get you to the place where you want to be, and then you set the tone. That's the idea, anyhow, even if mistakes were made along the way...Obama surely now knows that belonging to Wright's congregation as long as he did was a mistake, that there were surely other black churches amenable to his community-organizing style of leftis politics.

Paul, it seems to me that the "fighting faith" side of his progressivism won't emerge until his program has begun to demonstrable fail or stall...then, the enemy-defining time will begin, and we will learn a great deal about Obama's character at that time. Already, when the chips are down, he tends to assign blame or explain opposition in very simplistic and hectoring ways. But just maybe, his desire to avoid the bitterness the boomer-liberals have fallen into will override the temptations he will face at such a moment.

Very interesting post, Pete.

great posts, it's hard to tell ironic Brooks means to be. bobo-techno-progressive is right...

Another issue lurking under the radar screen that could be a HUGE winner for McCain is ----------------------- SOVEREIGNTY!

It's easy to portray Obama as the first candidate for a post-American Presidency. And "post-American" isn't a phrase likely to go over well with the American electorate.

Where is David Brooks going to be 10 years from now?

And I concur with SLICK'S perfectly commonsenical observations in #1. The media has covered Obama's campaign like it was one long ongoing convention. Uncritical coverage, rose-tinted optics, utterly in the tank so that they can say they did what they could for the "historic moment."

Is it possible that the prolonged media hysteria about all things Obama will render his actual convention something of a nullity, precisely because the coverage he's received has already saturated, and perhaps blighted the field for his actual convention.

Is Obama getting unwittingly sabotaged by a media wholly and completely in the tank for him?

What if Obama has ALREADY peaked, that his numbers can't go any higher, and that he has no second act. What if this is all there is?

The Dems have got to be in a DEAD panic right about now. The media has done their level best to portray Obama as a combination Mohammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks and true messiah. And with it all, Obama's numbers keep sliding. In the race against Hillary, Obama always polled higher than his actual results. In Pennsylvania for instance, despite his organization, he polled within 5 of Hillary, he lost by 10. And that was repeated for most of the races following the exposure of his "spiritual mentor," Jeremiah Wright.

I'm convinced that Obama is polling higher than what the actual number will be. He's in serious trouble. And the only thing his campaign knows what to do is to brand all opposition against him as racist, which is hardly likely to endear him to the American people, who know they're not racist. He's in trouble.

Republicans need to rapidly formulate a game plan to take advantage of McCain's likely victory, so that there will be a trickle down impact all the way down the ballot. We need to make sure the Democrats pay dearly for throwing forward the most radical ticket in American history.

This race has got to morph from just edging out Obama, to now thoroughly hammering the Democrats, from the top of the ticket all the way down the ballot.

The Democrats have blown it. And they're beginning to sense it, and they know they've gone down that path before.

Brooks is dead on.

Pete, where in the history of America has the nation been "post-partisan" besides the brief periods such as the "era of good feelings" where there was only one party (which very soon bore a new party as divisions arose)? Madison (and the other Founders) saw parties arise because of interest, which was rooted in human nature. Obama (and his European allies) have absolutely no understanding of human nature and the human person.

Tony, good point, so maybe I should be more clear. Obama's appeal was that he could appeal beyond the bitter divisions of the culture war which struck alot of people as unreasonably bitter and intense and do it while still being an orthodox liberal on the issues. It wasn't that parties would disappear, or even that disagreement would disappear, its that Obama would be a less alienating figure to at least some "red" voters and govern as a liberal without aggravating (maybe even soothing) a cultural civil war. One of the themes of his 2004 speech was that "red" and "blue" voters shared a love of God, country and tolerance. The virtues weren't all on one side of the political divide. This raised the possibility that Obama could be like Reagan, a politician who won over the center while governing from his ideological convictions (though of course Reagan made compromises). There would always be a rump opposition but it would be marginalized. One thing to keep in mind is that the idea of getting beyond the whole red/blue divide was a really American idea. Most people don't experience their lives looking at others as Democrats/liberals or Republicans/conservatives. Obama was on to something about the disjunction between how our politics acted out and how we lived our lives. It wasn't a hope of ending parties or factions, it was about getting past a kind of politics that seemed stale and ugly and false. Of course this was to be to the benefit of the Democratic party in general and Obama in particular.

Of course it hasn't proved that easy for Obama (thank God). The issues still matter and there is a limit to how much he can move past the red/blue divide unless he is willing to move to the center in substantive ways (which the Rick Warren forum showed he isn't) or he manages to convert large numbers to his policies as well as his style. His association (with Wright and Ayers) also hurt his ability to project himself as a post culture war figure.

And once again. Brook's suggestion that Obama run as a post American global citizen is terrible, terrible advice that I hope Obama follows.

And if postpartisan is misleading (it being utopian, you are right about that), perhaps better to say that Obama was trying to lead the way to a more mutually respectful politics, with a better sense of proportion in how we deal with our differences. It wasn't just out of the goodness of his heart. This was a way for Obama to boost his own political career and for liberalism to escape its current demographic limits. But that central idea, that our politics could be less polarized and self rightous, has alot of appeal.

better to say that Obama was trying to lead the way to a more mutually respectful politics

It is hard for me to believe that the person who wrote the above sentence actually watched the angry and factually inaccurate anti-NAFTA ads Obama ran against Clinton here in Ohio.

really?, that was part of his original appeal in 2004. I never said he managed to live up top it, which is one of the reasons he is having trouble pulling ahead of McCain.

Peter, it's always been there, Mac's already exploiting it (despite himself), and Brooks says nothing here we haven't known for some time. I see a nose dive for BO this week. Americans are still Americans it seems.

I recommend that everyone serious about understanding how horrible a candidate Obama is simply read his autobio, Dreams from my Father. It is not that he is anti-American, he is a-American, feeling alienated in Kenya, Indonesia, Hawaii, and Chicago. He is not a Manchurian candidate but rather (as Brooks says) a postmodern candidate, perhaps pomotextual best describes him.

It is wrong to call him a Muslim, but the book makes it clear that he is a foreigner in a way that makes him unfit to be President.

Ken has hit the nail on the head, but...pomotextual?

Excellent comments. A rare Internet pleasure.

As Dan touched on, if you want to find a way to piss off as many white voters as possible - especially men - go ahead and tell them that they are racist if they don't vote for the black candidate. Brilliant! Even if you believe it - hell, even if it's true! - are they so clueless that they don't understand the consequence of making those kinds of accusations? I guess so. What a horrible strategy. It's another example of "liberals" (as if) shooting themselves in the foot.

Do they think that the white guys are going to say to themselves "Gee...ok...you're right...we're sorry....forgive us...we'll vote for the black guy just because he's black". lol. People naturally resent anyone trying to COERCE or GUILT them into voting the way that they want them to. And in similar fashion, that's the way the Obama camp is treating the Clinton supporters - resulting in exactly the same response, i.e. "f___ you". Intimidation is a lousy and ineffective way to try and close a deal.

Even Hillary's staff noted Obama has an American deficit in his soul, which they suggested Hillary could take advantage of. But Hillary never really sought to work that angle.

God it must be difficult for her watching McCain effortlessly close the gap with Obama. She was getting run ragged by Obama playing the race card constantly against her, --------------- but McCain's team is going DIRECTLY after Obama's greatest asset, which is his celebritship.

well, i, too, like what ken says about obama being a postmodern a-american. the manly mccain is well positioned to exploit that. he's not a moslem, because being one (like being a real christian) requires real devotion and discipline.

That's one razor-sharp parenthetical remark there, Peter! (And not just for Obama.)

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