Tuesday, February 19, 2008


It's quite appropriate that the remaining Democratic candidates for president are an African-American and a woman. When they run for office, blacks and women both struggle, often in vain, to find the sweet spot between one negative image that's "too much" and one that's "not enough" -- women aren't taken seriously if they seem truly feminine but are regarded as scary hermaphrodites if they act tough; blacks are deemed angry if they regularly talk about race and are regarded as inauthentic "bargainers" if they downplay race. Much of the time, it seems they just can't win.

That's ideal preparation for being the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. The reason? Well, as far as our political culture is concerned, Democrats just can't win. Democrats are always either too much or not enough, and are therefore always unworthy of serious consideration for the highest office in the land.

To see how this works, let's turn to David Brooks in today's New York Times. According to Brooks, you have two Democratic choices: Too Much Hope and Too Much Gloom:

At first it seemed like a few random cases of lassitude among Mary Chapin Carpenter devotees in Berkeley, Cambridge and Chapel Hill. But then psychotherapists began to realize patients across the country were complaining of the same distress. They were experiencing the first hints of what's bound to be a national phenomenon: Obama Comedown Syndrome.

The afflicted had already been through the phases of Obama-mania -- fainting at rallies, weeping over their touch screens while watching Obama videos, spending hours making folk crafts featuring Michelle Obama's face. These patients had experienced intense surges of hope-amine, the brain chemical that fuels euphoric sensations of historic change and personal salvation.

But they found that as the weeks went on, they needed more and purer hope-injections just to preserve the rush. They wound up craving more hope than even the Hope Pope could provide....

Patients in the grip of O.C.S. rarely express doubts at first, but in a classic case of transference, many experience slivers of sympathy for Hillary Clinton. They see her campaign morosely traipsing from one depressed industrial area to another -- The Sitting Shiva for America Tour. They see that her entire political strategy consists of waiting for primary states as boring as she is.....

I've said this before and I'll say it again: George W. Bush ran in 2004 as God's Anointed Candidate, complete with a media operation that had frequently positioned him and press photographers so he'd be photographed with what seemed like a halo. Bush had said in no uncertain terms that one of his closest advisers was God. And the Bush media operation has made certain that nearly every Bush public appearance has been before an adoring crowd.

None of this has ever given David Brooks the slightest pause.

Meanwhile, Brooks depicts Hillary Clinton as a Gloomy Gus who sees America in decline. But four short days ago, Brooks was approvingly quoting Mitt Romney's predictions of American decline. Here's what Brooks and Romney said:

... Generation after generation, American workers were better educated, more industrious and more innovative than the ones that came before.

That progress stopped about 30 years ago. The percentage of young Americans completing college has been stagnant for a generation. As well-educated boomers retire over the next decades, the quality of the American work force is likely to decline. Mitt Romney captured the consequences in his withdrawal statement: "I am convinced that unless America changes course, we will become the France of the 21st century -- still a great nation, but no longer the leader of the world." ...

That's OK. That's just tough, sharp rehetoric. Hillary, on the other hand, is Debbie Downer. What a pill!

Whatever Republicans do is normal. Whatever Democrats do is extreme. Democrats are always too rich (John Kerry, John Edwards), too low-class (Bill Clinton), too aggressive (Al Sharpton), too wussy (Mike Dukakis), too boring (Dukakis, Kerry, Mondale, Hillary Clinton), too flamboyant (Obama, Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton), too red-carpet fabulous (the Clintons, Al Gore now), too Mom's-basement geeky (Dukakis, Al Gore before the movie). Republicans are always safely smack dab in the middle.

No comments: