Saturday, January 05, 2008

Spinning Obama's Victory

David Brooks had this to say in his op-ed about the Iowa Caucuses:

Iowa won’t settle the race, but the rest of the primary season is going to be colored by the glow of this result. Whatever their political affiliations, Americans are going to feel good about the Obama victory, which is a story of youth, possibility and unity through diversity — the primordial themes of the American experience.

And Americans are not going to want to see this stopped. When an African-American man is leading a juggernaut to the White House, do you want to be the one to stand up and say No?

Several NPR commentators suggested Iowa voters don't like to be told what to do (and this is why they picked Obama over Clinton) and a USA Today editorial maintained that the Iowa caucuses are not actually a good predictor of anything at all (despite the public being told otherwise for the last 12 months). Something smells fishy here. What these people seem to be doing is constructing a narrative that can be put in place in the event Obama becomes president--his election won't be about all kinds of Americans' desire for hope and change (as Obama says) but rather Americans' unwillingness to appear racist by not voting for him. It's just an upgrade of the anti-affirmative action argument--it's not that the black man was actually qualified for the job or better at the job than a white woman. It must be that the black man got the job because someone wanted to prove he wasn't racist.

I don't know what America David Brooks is living in, but in the America I live in, people are not all shy about being racist, and certainly aren't willing to elect a black man (no matter how charming and not-angry he might be) out of nostalgia for the American dream.

1 comment:

Alison said...

As you know, this op-ed pissed me off, too, but reading parts of it again through your commentary has made me pissed off anew.

"Youth, possibility and unity through diversity" are the themes Brooks finds played out in Obama's campaign--not, for instance, "the confrontation of racist pigheadedness," which I see as a much more primordial theme of the American experience.