Christopher Orr says "there's a reason why Obama has, to a striking degree in contemporary politics, played up superego at the expense of id":
[Obama's] composed, borderline uptight demeanor allayed white anxiety about his race; and, less self-evident but no less real, his being black saved him from the nerd purgatory of Adlai Stevensonism. Nor is this racial/temperamental balancing act a particularly novel one: think, again, of Colin Powell (prior to Obama, the most broadly popular black political figure in the country) or such breakthrough cultural figures as Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, and Nat King Cole.
Even when Obama has been at his cucumber-coolest--and has earned abuse from the left and center for it--figures on the right have aggressively tried to hang the "angry black man" label on him. A June editorial in The Washington Times (entitled, bluntly enough, "Angry Man Obama") cited his "tough guy" persona and "bullying undercurrent" and tied him to Spike Lee. A year ago, Rush Limbaugh described the school-bus beating of a white student by black students as typical of "Obama's America"; in the run-up to the midterms, Glenn Beck accused the president of "inciting people." The idea that Obama is driven by fury is prevalent enough on the right that Dinesh D'Souza could take it as a given in the title of his Amazon bestseller The Roots of Obama's Rage. Idiotic though it may be, this is not a narrative the president wants to fuel.
Nor should he. Some kind of left-populism would simply empower right-populism. I think the key to Obama's long-term success is being Obama: the calm, restrained, sober, reasonable adult in the room, always focused on actual problems and their feasible solutions. And Chris is right: his race actually helps balance this cerebral and temperamental calm.
He's an Eisenhower in a room full of McCarthys. It may take some patience but we all know who won that game in the end.
(Photo: Jewel Samad/Getty.)
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