Monday, September 29, 2008

More on OBAMAAA!

Newsweek recently ran an intriguing article by Allison Samuels called "What if Obama Loses?" that speculated on the black community's potential reaction to a McCain victory.

Among African-Americans, Samuels says, there was initially "disbelief that a black man could become president. Then, when Obama became the Democratic nominee and soared in the polls, [people] were concerned for his safety. Now that the race with John McCain is as tight as Sarah Palin's smile, [they have] started to worry about Election Day itself." She goes on to quote none other than rapper Snoop Dogg, who claims that even gangstas and ex-cons, people who never felt that national politics had anything to say to them, have expressed a new civic spirit and registered to vote. In a nutshell, the article manages to evoke a sense of daring hope intertwined with a cynical realism. Yes, an African-American could very well end up becoming literally the most powerful man on Earth. But . . . and this is a very big BUT . . . racism in the United States still exists. According to Joe Klein's recent editorial in Time magazine, much of the sudden outpouring of support for Palin reflects a nostalgic longing for a vanished America of rural culture, Christian values, homogeneity, and, in the famous words of Nixon, "law and order." Obama's story, Klein argues, unfolds in an America that has not yet been "mythologized" and is indeed still frightening in its novelty: "a multiracial country whose greatest cultural and economic strength is its diversity. It is the country where our children already live and that our parents will never really know. . ."

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Hmmm. . . I'm aware that I may have made a case in favor of voting for Obama. Actually, I happen to be a McCain supporter, and, contrary to Klein's depiction of a bunch of reactionaries struggling in vain to turn back the clock, my decision has nothing to do with a fear of change (one of Obama's favorite words) and everything to do with trepidation with regards to his politics. Yes, politics -- a word some pundits seem to have forgotten in all their cultural analyses. In fact, despite my misgivings about some of his sociopolitical beliefs, I do not, unlike some very shrill voices out there, feel that an Obama victory marks the Fall of America. I agree with Bill O'Reilly, when he says, in that very same Time issue, that Obama is "a sincere man and a tough guy. His policy is what he says it is. He's no phony. He's telling you: I'm going to set up a big government apparatus, I'm going to redistribute income and I'm going to use more soft power than hard power abroad. What he says is what he believes." Like Bill, I respect Obama, even if I disagree with him.

Now look: no matter what some of the rabid Bush haters out there have screamed about, our President is not a dictator. He still needs Congressional approval to implement anything major. Nor are we forever stuck with him. Obama does a lousy job, we kick him out in 2012 and elect a Republican. We have had big-government types in the White House before: Lyndon B. Johnson. We have also had the soft-power types: Jimmy Carter. And then in the '80s, we had Reagan. In a democratic system, the pendulum perpetually swings, and one party, one ideology cannot remain in power forever. That is an attribute of the one-party state, a road no republic wants to go down, a stepping stone to totalitarianism. So while I cast my vote for the McCain/Palin ticket, I do not express a deep-rooted dread of Obama and all he is said to represent. On the contrary, I say may the best man win!

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Something else that I read that was interesting: despite Klein's vivid portrait of anxious WASP's sticking their fingers in the dike holes in a flailing attempt to hold back the floods of change, according to one (Democratic) Hasidic blogger in NYC, his fellow ultra-Orthodox Jews are also extremely excited about McCain-Palin. Now obviously, Hasids were never included in that sepia-hued vision of small-town Protestant America and have seemingly everything to gain from the more tolerant and inclusive society Obama seems to promise. So how would Joe Klein explain their support?

UPDATE: In response to my comment on his post, "Shtreimel" attributes all the fuss surrounding Palin to an ironically Obama-like vision of her as a "conservative Messiah." Which makes a whole ton of sense. Of course, I've already made fun of Obama for being in viewed in a similar light by his followers. . . In other words, Mr. Klein, look no further than the Obamamaniacs themselves for the key to the Palinmania mystery.

Also: a conservative for Obama. Who knew?


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