Wasn’t that a line in a Neil Diamond song? Increasingly, columnists are applying it to the Obama campaign.
It is not actually clear that Obama has sought to make
his campaign such a cult of personality, but whether sought or not,
this is how he has been received. The traveling revivalist cabaret has
certainly helped Obama immensely, and contributed to his electoral
strength, but it also carries serious risks for him. In the long run,
the messianic flavor of his campaign could endanger his support from
the very quarters now most receptive to the message; and even in the
short run it could hurt him with blue-collar voters who have little
patience for the grand production.
It’s going to become a problem for the cultural elites, too, Levin
predicts. After all, they’re ”powerfully allergic to forthright
displays of devotion and fervor”. This can’t last, he suggests.
How long can a politician go around saying “we are the
ones we’ve been waiting for” before a sharp and memorable punch line
leaves him with a nasty lasting bruise? And how will Obama’s young
followers respond when forced to choose between the movement to change
the world and the snide knowing chuckle?
The frantic pace of our cultural trends means Obama is running a
very serious risk of making his most ardent supporters tired of him
very quickly. A nasty turn in his press coverage in just the past week
offers Obama an ominous preview of how that could feel. This may not be
his fault, but it is certainly his problem.
Which is a good point. It’s not Sen. Obama’s fault. In fact, he’s
trying to run a straight, high-powered, positive campaign, no matter
what one thinks of his principles or policies….if one knows what they
are. But that campaign is just starting to get more scrutiny from the
press, and it’s revealing more about the man than people have even
cared to learn until now.
The elitist drift of Obama’s campaign inevitably weakens
his appeal among blue-collar voters. And in this regard, it is more
than the messianic excesses on the stump, but Obama’s style and
personal history that could bring him lasting trouble. Throughout the
Democratic primary season, we have witnessed a significant divide
between highly educated white-collar voters and less educated
blue-collar voters — a pattern powerfully evident in this week’s
results in Ohio. Obama’s performance with black voters has masked some
of this, but if you examine the white vote in state after state, you
find that Barack Obama is the Ph.D.’s candidate, and Hillary Clinton
the working stiff’s candidate.
Whether she stays in the race or not, even if he’s the eventual
party nominee, there’s a lot of time left before the election. The
working stiffs are paying a lot of attention.
Blue-collar Democrats, especially in the upper midwest,
are the voters Republicans used to think of as Reagan Democrats. For
several election cycles now they have been more or less just Democrats.
But given Obama’s apparent vulnerability among them in the primaries,
Republicans may find an unexpected opening this year.
This whole year has been unexpected. The resulting combination of dread and anticipation cuts across party lines, too.