If you missed Pete Abel’s post Thursday (he has part 1), go back and read it. When I read Andrew Sullivan’s Weimar America post on Tuesday I thought the reader was stretching. I went back and reread it today.
McCain and Palin are playing with fire. And I’m not giving McCain a pass (even as I understand why Obama must). I’ve not forgotten that just about a year ago when a female supporter at one of his vaunted town hall performances asked him of Hillary Clinton, “How do we beat the bitch?” He responded, “That’s an excellent question.”
Although a bunch of people have spent the better part of a year coming up with new ways to call Barack Obama “exotic,” someone who “grew up eating moose burgers” is a quintessential American story and is accepted as such right out the box. And that just struck me, because that’s it right there, y’know? Everyone talks about “fill in the blank” is the new black, but all black ever strives to be is the new normal.
In a bit of cosmic confluence… I had one of the DVDs from the second season of The Cosby Show playing in the background, and if there was ever a study in black people trying to posit their existence in normative terms, that was it. I’m on record a couple of times showing my huge love for Bill Cosby’s masterpiece in its entirety, but those first two seasons in particular are a fascinating study in sitcom structure, because there aren’t really plots, per se. Each episode was just 26 minutes of this family’s day to day routine: the first day of school, Denise gets a new car, the family makes plans for the grandparents’ anniversary, etc. In some ways, these early episodes take an almost cinéma vérité approach to family’s life, depicting simple moments in daily existence to point toward a broader truth: that the African-American Huxtable family was a normal one with middle of the road, middle-class values. The fact that The Cosby Show was seen by many critics, black and white, as unrealistic pretty much tells you all you need to know about the manner in which black folks were seen in the ’80s.
But 20 years later, we’re looking at the Obama family, and looking hard. I’ve been sort of bitterly amused by some of the strategies Team Obama has had to employ over the last few months. In some ways, I’m impressed that Obama and his surrogates have been able to say that “the American people just have to get to know him” with a straight face. What else is there to know? Seriously, when’s the last time we’ve known as much about any politician as we have Sen. Obama? Pop quiz: Anyone know where Ronald Reagan went to church? How about what Roslyn Carter did for a living? No, any information anyone needs about the candidate is out there, so it’s never been about “getting to know” him; it’s been about “getting to accept him as one of us.”