April 14, 2008

I don't care what Obama says, chronic unemployment and regional economic emasculation cannot excuse this sort of thing...so far, the polls aren't showing much of an impact, which shouldn't be surprising. First, the overwhelming majority of voters pretty much have decided on who they will support, and something that is perceived as a slip of the tongue isn't going to weigh as heavy as, say, getting out of Iraq or what to do about four dollar gas.

But more importantly, I don't think the "elitist" label really hurts Obama, the same way it has hurt other Democrats in the past. Perhaps the biggest personal attribute Obama is selling is his intelligence; after eight years of a failed Presidency helmed by someone widely perceived to be dumber than a bag of hammers, having a candidate who speaks in complete sentences and who actually seems to think about what he's saying may be precisely what swing voters are demanding. After Katrina, Iraq and the real estate bubble, why not give the A-students a chance to run things for once?

Moreover, Mickey Kaus may be on to something when he says that Clinton and McCain may be making a huge mistake by focusing too much on the "bitter." Voters are angry, and over the last thirty years neither party has offered the voters Obama was addressing much in the way of policies that would actually improve their lives. That may be why The Speech last month resonated so deeply: rather than doing the politically expedient thing, which was to throw his friend overboard, he used the opportunity to recast the debate as one about how race continues to affect our perceptions. Voters didn't see a politician treating them with condescension; they saw an intelligent person speak to them as adults, put their feelings into words, and define a problem we would all rather avoid talking about in an honest fashion. It was most unexpected, which may be why they are willing to cut Obama some slack here.

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