Saturday, November 1, 2008

Only in America

Unless all the polls are wrong or unless mass insanity overtakes the nation by Tuesday, Obama will win. Why, then, is there still so much apprehension? Even I’m worried, though not enough to switch my vote from Nader. [Much as I regret the fact, Cynthia McKinney is out of the question; she is too much even for me.] The easy answer is that Obama is black, sort of. The conventional wisdom has it that a white guy (or maybe even Hillary Clinton) would have “closed the deal” long ago with all those “undecided” rural, white working class guys. Then too, there’s the so-called Bradley effect (white voters lying to pollsters), which informed statisticians, almost without exception, discount. Another explanation is that the Republicans have succeeded in spreading misinformation and confusion – about everything from Obama’s religion to his tax plan. Racism and ignorance are indeed reasons for concern, but it is becoming increasingly clear that Obama’s election hinges less on these things than on how many people can’t identify with him because he isn’t ignorant enough.

It’s not exactly a class thing. The rich may be different from you and me, but as long as they aren’t too conspicuous in ways that would put Joe the Plumber ill at ease, they’re just fine. [I am speaking, of course, not of the real Joe the Plumber, a self-promoting moron, but the iconic figure of John McCain’s propaganda machine.] George Bush, the son of a President and grandson of a Senator, has more money than he knows what to do with, but he’s OK because, despite Phillips Andover, Yale and the Harvard Business School, he managed to remain profoundly dumb. And, for good measure, he acts like a swaggering frat boy who somehow talks like Buddy Ebsen (unlike even brother Jeb who grew up in the same, over-privileged house)! Who cares about John McCain’s seven (or is it eight?) houses and his umpteen vehicles! He got them fair and square by marrying a beer distributor’s icy daughter, thereby realizing every good old boy’s American dream. On the other hand, John Kerry (like Bush, a Yale man, and Skull and Bones) is too cosmopolitan in his tastes (and in his choice of a super-rich wife). He even speaks French! That won’t do. Flaunt the common touch, no matter how disingenuously, and anything goes – because the hapless poor (who consider themselves “middle class”) will think you one of their own. Then anything you want for yourself and your class will be fine with them. Do away with the “death” (inheritance) tax for people much richer than they’ll ever be? Sure thing. Lower taxes on capital gains for investors? You betcha. Make the Bush tax cuts for the rich permanent? Right on. It’s not a race thing. By all accounts, Kerry had less support among these yahoos than Obama now does. What it is is false consciousness, but in a very bizarre form -- a “populism” that identifies with the rich.

Who then is the class enemy? Why people like Obama, of course; people who are curious and thoughtful and who actually learned something in college. There’s a bit of dissonance there because black people, men especially, aren’t supposed to be that way. But, no matter; we’ve come a long way baby. Obama gets the yahoos riled up not so much (perhaps not at all) because he’s black, but because he’s smart. The Obama campaign plays into this too. Rarely, if ever, do they mention Columbia or Harvard or the Harvard Law Review. Filthy rich is fine. But a first rate education, even if financed by scholarships and loans (not family money as with Bush), is beyond the pale.

It’s a position so indefensible on its face that only American yahoos could go along with it. [Elsewhere in the world, when people are envious, it is of the monied, not the brainy.] But even our yahoos have their limits. If one of them were in need of a brain surgeon would they shop around for someone whom they’d like to have a beer with, the reason many of them supposedly opted for Bush over Gore and Kerry? Would they choose to go under a scalpel wielded by a clueless ex-beauty queen soccer mom? Or, for that matter, a doddering surgeon with the worst success record in the hospital? I think even they would go instead for the bright new kid on the block – no matter that he’s black or younger than Methuselah. Why is the choice of a President different? That’s a question that would answer itself, if only the yahoos would ask it. But here, in the Home of the Brave, don’t count on it. If there were a God in heaven, as Sarah Palin truly believes, now would be the time to pray: “please God, don’t let there be so many of them as to bring about yet another American tragedy.”

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