E.J.Dionne writes in today's Post:
The great opportunity this year for less scrupulous Republican strategists is that Obama is both black and a Columbia-and-Harvard-educated former professor who lived in the intellectually rarified precincts of Hyde Park in Chicago, Manhattan's Upper West Side and Cambridge, Mass. They can go after him subtly on race and overtly on elitism. They can turn the facts of Obama's life into mutually reinforcing liabilities.
As if on cue, David Brooks responds:
And the root of it is probably this: Obama has been a sojourner. He opened his book “Dreams From My Father” with a quotation from Chronicles: “For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers.”
There is a sense that because of his unique background and temperament, Obama lives apart. He put one foot in the institutions he rose through on his journey but never fully engaged. As a result, voters have trouble placing him in his context, understanding the roots and values in which he is ineluctably embedded.
Of course there is no evidence for Brooks' assertion that "voters have trouble [unsure, etc.]" other than the fact that Obama is not crushing McCain in the polls. It seems Brooks is the one who has trouble placing Obama. Given the vast amount of empirical data about voter preferences, Brooks would be better served seeking his explanatory story there.
But no. Brooks would rather make observations of the very silly kind–the kind that could characterize anyone of us at any time. For example:
And so it goes. He is a liberal, but not fully liberal. He has sometimes opposed the Chicago political establishment, but is also part of it. He spoke at a rally against the Iraq war, while distancing himself from many antiwar activists.
Isn't this the narrative that many supporters of McCain use in his favor (he bucks the party trend–he's a maverick, etc.)? All of this to establish the point that Obama is some kind of careerist cipher, whose very success, independence, and upward mobility are signs that he doesn't really belong. Of course Brooks has expanded the trope somewhat–by insisting that the sheer fact of living an indentifiable cariacature constitutes a virtue.