Thursday, April 03, 2008

Michael Barone on Obama

Shorter version: He can't win because he's a wuss who can't take a bullet like Reagan did. Here's how Barone puts it:

He has the body of a younger man—he is slim like a man of 31 rather than 46—and moves gracefully but without exuding the sense that you get from every movement of Colin Powell, that he is in charge. Ronald Reagan also had the gift of graceful maneuver, from the movies discipline of knowing the camera was always on him, but he also had the sense of command and an understanding that he must always be in charge: hence the moment, after he was shot and then walked out of the ambulance into George Washington University hospital, when he got out of the car, stood up and (for me, the greatest gesture) buttoned his suit coat, and walked into the building and then, when out of camera range, collapsed on the floor. Would Obama be capable of doing that, while in great pain and in mortal danger? Maybe. The academic doesn't think about it. The Jacksonian thinks it's very unlikely.

Barone spends most of the article analyzing the Democratic race in terms of how Obama has done among Jacksonians, his catch-all description for Scots-Irish whites. To do this, he argues implicitly that migration and settlement patterns from two hundred and fifty years ago are driving election results today. This is nonsense. A quick scan of the primary exit polls shows that gender, income, education, and age had more to do with voting patterns than any ethno-cultural essentialism. For example, take age. Among whites in Ohio, Clinton won by margins of 60 percent or more among those over 30, but among those under 30, she and Obama tied 50-50. So if Barone is right, what are we to make of this? That Scots-Irish cultural patterns endured as strong as ever until 1978, but then, as if by magic, receded drastically?

1 comment:

jjv said...

We could also think that there are fewer scoth-irish as a percentage of the population under 30,which is true. The massive immigration experience and more people going to college, which has occurred in the last 30 years, combined with the loss of the acculturation machine that included Hollywood (John Wayne-Scotch-Irishness writ large), has indeed changed the make-up of the young v. the old.