Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama is one of "us" and indeed "we" are not "real" and "we" are not "pro-American"

A problem I’ve had with this election is that I actually identify with Obama quite a bit. But as I’ve elaborated on at length in this blog that doesn’t mean I’d vote for him (e.g. because I dislike many of his supporters, because I dislike the policy of the median Congressional Democrat).

The media has recently taken a lot of umbrage at the suggestion by the McCain campaign that Obama is not “pro-American” and that he is out of touch with “real” America (e.g. Time magazine). But I think those accusations are fair.

First of all, by “us” I am talking about well-off highly educated coastal elites. Although Obama often evokes the language of unity, when talking about tax policy Obama talks about people like “us“ meaning Obama and McCain and other well off elites, which implicitly creates the “other” of people not like “us."

Pundits are happily making the point that the real “Joe the Plumber” makes well less than $250,000 a year, but the point of the McCain campaign is that that doesn’t matter. Because in his world view Joe and McCain are part of the same “us.”

But Obama’s “us” is different. Saying that we are anti-American is too far, but that’s not what the McCain campaign’s been saying. The most extreme way to see this is the number of my friends who (jokingly, but still) threaten to move to Canada. Or, I bet if you poll my friends and ask them if they had to choose between wearing a Canadian flag or an American flag on their bag while traveling, I bet nearly all would choose Canadian. I bet most people in the pro-American states that Palin is talking about would never do that (admittedly, I’m not sure what I’d pick, but probably I’d still put an American flag). It’s not a bad thing to not be “pro American.” It represents a different cosmopolitan ecumenical humanist world view that I like. But it is different.

This is an old notion of course, the different ways of defining identity. Democrats try to create identity along economic divisions, whereas Republicans do so along social divisions.
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