I thought were done with this after the election. Evidently not. Here's John Judis:
Here is a fact: Barack Obama has trouble generating enthusiasm among white working class voters. That's not because they are white. He would have had trouble winning support among black working class voters if they had been unable to identify with him because he was black. He has trouble with working class voters because he appears to them as coming from a different world, a different realm of experience, a different class, if you like. And that's because he does.
Obama's parents were professionals--his mother was an anthropology PhD and his father was a Harvard-trained economist. How much money they made was immaterial. His grandmother, who raised him in Hawaii, was a bank vice-president. He went to a fancy private school and to prestigious colleges (Occidental and Columbia) that turn out professionals and managers. He clearly was not obsessed with making money, but with performing a public service--yet that doesn't distinguish him from other professionals or other Columbia graduates. It does distinguish him from a working- or middle-class American for whom being a civil rights lawyer or professor or politician is at best a passing fantasy...
Yes, there have been some gifted politicians of an upper class or professional background who have been able to do so. Some, like Bill Clinton, Lyndon Johnson, or Ronald Reagan, could draw upon their working class childhoods; others, like Franklin Roosevelt or Edward Kennedy, could evince a kind of upper-class paternalism. This made them great politicians. It didn't necessarily make them great men or great Americans. Barack Obama is, by any fair measure, a great American, and he could turn out to be a great president. But he is not yet a great politician. He has not been able to transcend the political limits of his own social background. And that has been one of his problems as he attempts to extricate America from the mess he inherited.
I don't really understand this. By Judis' own definition--professional parents, private schools, prestigious college, aspiration to be a politician--George W. Bush was a yuppie. I haven't ran the numbers, maybe Bush's yuppie background kept him from relating to the white working class also.
Judis then charges that Obama, as a yuppie, "has not been able to transcend the political limits of his social background." I call this moving the goal-posts. I think it's fair to say that in 2008, Judis thought those "limits" included winning the presidency, to say nothing of winning Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio.
I don't want anyone to take this the wrong way, but I think one of two things--and maybe both things--have to be true after the election. Obama, a black man among other things, actually did transcend his "social background" by winning in 2008. Or we need to stop ascribing near totemic power to the "white working class."
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