She is like Us

Embedded video from CNN Video

I was watching the recent Larry King interview with Michelle Obama, and it made me realize that the Obamas are the ones who are the most normal and rational in this election. Not only does Michelle speak in complete sentences and give coherent interviews, she comes off like a normal human being, living in a normal country, with normal, common sense values. She isn’t fumbling or talking about killing and gutting animals, she isn’t the heiress to a beer fortune, defensive or an attack dog. She comes off as reasonable, gracious, kind, and genuine. In effect, she is “like us”.

If Sarah Palin or Cindy McCain, in contrast to Michelle Obama, represent small town values, then those values are foreign to me and not part of the America that I believe in. The contrast is startling. It’s ironic that white candidates and their white supporters open their mouths and come off like the radicals, while the black family better embodies who we want to be as a nation.

If my grandfather were only alive today!

My maternal grandfather was a life long Republican, yet he was the type of Republican that used to exist, the kind that conservative journalist David Brooks praises in today’s New York Times. I find it curious (and contrary to basic brand marketing strategy) that the McCain Palin campaign will try to demonize the “mainstream media” and paint Obama as a fringe radical and “not one of us”  foreigner, yet McCain and Palin call themselves mavericks. How can the mainstream support a radical? The minute you’re supported by the mainstream, by definition, you cease to be radical. And isn’t there something inherently radical and erratic about a maverick? None of it make sense.

In any event, my grandfather loved following politics. He wasn’t an intellectual in an academic sense, but he always did his best to stay informed and well-versed on the issues of the day. Furthermore, he loved discussing politics and trying to find the best solutions to the problems that affected the country. Many of my childhood memories are of his table covered with all of the major newsworthy magazines and periodicals, watching the political debates shows, and talking about the issues with my parents and uncles.

Having died in his early 90s three years ago, my grandfather lived through a time of unprecedented transformation in world history: the mass commercialization of the automobile, the telephone, the Great Depression, various wars (World War I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War), the civil rights movement, and the information technology revolution. When he was in his 80s, he founded his retirement home’s computer club and was using email and the Internet before I knew either existed — that’s ten years and counting before John McCain learned how to use a computer. I remember once discussing how far we had come on breaking the gender and racial barriers, and he gave me the simple example of how there was a time when you would never see African Americans on TV or even women as news anchors.

But now the Republican party is offering us the McCain Palin culture wars against mainstream American life. As David Brooks writes,

But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite.

She is another step in the Republican change of personality. Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.

Yesterday, I received a care package from my mother with Ron Suskind’s The Way of the World: A story of truth and hope in an age of extremism. There was also an envelope with snap shots taken directly from the television screen of Obama with wife Michelle accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination at its convention. My mom, like a stereotypical little girl, always thought that her father (“parent” in the case of Chelsea) should be president. When I saw the photo I knew what she was trying to say: how much she wished her father were alive today so that we could all sit down together and discuss the historic importance of that photo.

President Eisenhower’s granddaughter has endorsed Obama and thinks that her father (a Republican during his lifetime), were he alive today, would also endorse Obama. I don’t know why, but I am pretty sure that my grandfather, after carefully listening to the candidates, would vote for the team he related to the most. Not the fringe, radical, anti-establishment maverick and his white-bread demagogue from distant Alaska, but the mainstream guy with a decent education; in other words, the African American.



Filed under Essays, Obama 08

6 responses to “She is like Us

  1. ReWrite

    The imagery in this post is pretty amazing.

  2. ReWrite

    and it is an incredible interview by Michelle.

  3. eric

    She is very impressive. Though, you have to also factor in that she has been doing these interviews for a year now and has learned a lot about speaking with the press. Nevertheless, she is probably one of the most impressive figures in the race. If Hillary made a sacrifice of political ambition for her hubby, what is Michelle giving up? But judging from her tone, she seems to be pretty grounded and family first.

  4. eric

    I think that what is more striking than having the first African American president is that the African American candidate is the one that the most representative of who we are and who we think we are as a nation.

  5. ReWrite

    well i think that (“who we are and who we think we are…”) is what this election is about. And so I think election will prove whether you assumption is correct or not.

  6. carol

    I cannot not comment on the beautiful tribute to your grandfather, my Dad. You envisioned him exactly as I do. Today I woke from a nap with him in the room with me, younger, and just for enough time to love him completely. Yes, I always thought he should be president. He was fair and strong and just. Let’s hope Obama can be all that. Go easy on the Nutter Butters but enjoy every taste. Thanks for your blog.

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