Fraternite’, Egalite’, Regularite’

Ruth Marcus writes:

It's not just about the narrative.

So get ready for the narrative:

Obama's exotic background — his unique melange of Kenya, Kansas, Hawaii and Harvard — makes the job of presenting his life story particularly important. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell made that point bluntly in an interview with Post reporters and editors Tuesday, comparing Obama to the egghead Adlai Stevenson, who twice failed as the Democrats' nominee.

"With people who have a lot of gifts, it's hard for people to identify with them," Rendell said. "Barack Obama is handsome. He's incredibly bright. He's incredibly well spoken, and he's incredibly successful — not exactly the easiest guy in the world to identify with."

Obama's strategists acknowledge this phenomenon. "Our candidate is outside of the mold," one senior adviser told me. "There are so many things about our candidate that are different that the challenge that we have is to give people a confidence that despite all these things that feel different, 'Okay, I get what he's about personally' . . . that his family is like every other family that your kids go to school with."

This is necessary but not sufficient, as Obama advisers agree. Obama needs to seem more familiar and approachable to voters, yes, but he also needs to convey — to use President Clinton's famous phrasing — that he feels their pain.

So far this argument rests on the authority of the various fairly prominent and representative Democrats she mentions.  It might be stronger if she softened her claim a bit to say that it seems to some Democrats that Obama needs to x, y, z.  My point is rather another: A more circumspect writer might have noticed the vacuousness of the "regular guy"–you know, the one you think you want to have a beer with, but in reality does not drink beer, or wouldn't ever have a beer with a non-Yalie–persona as a qualification for President.  A more circumspect writer would have also wondered whether people actually want that, or whether it is just a kind of storyline–a kind of narrative as it were–she and others have been pushing.  Even though some prominent Democrats seem to agree (and indeed, they seem to be the right kinds of people to ask), maybe a more critical mind, or at least a more industrious one, would bother to inquire whether the public gives a rats about who they can have a beer with.  But perhaps what I want would fall outside of the narrative of the clairvoyant pundit, who doesn't need to do any research.

3 thoughts on “Fraternite’, Egalite’, Regularite’”

  1. It’s absurd to need to identify with a president in order to vote for him.  I want my president to be a hell of a lot smarter than me, to not be a regular guy.  What ever happened to the president being “presidential,” serious, and circumspect?  I think the “regular guy” thing is just a narrative the media created because some backwards baseball cap-wearing, Miller Lite-quaffing, SUV-driving numbskull said that he would vote for Bush because he could sit down and have a beer with him.  Narrative born and ran with.  I would think (hope!) that most people are at least smart enough to get that the presidency is a serious gig that requires a smart and sober brain. That reality just doesn’t seem to make a good corporate media storyline.

  2. It’s funny how so much of the country–certainly more than half: brown and black people, women, gays, atheists–have never had the lazy-idiot privilege of voting for someone who resembles them. 
    The “beer test” seems like one of most trashy possible reflections of white privilege.

  3. Make that straight white male Christian privilege and you make an outstanding point.

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