Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Where's the Manchurian Beef?

In reading the latest in a series of incisive critiques, thanks to ankh156, of French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- a man who seems to inspire good sentences, if not good policies -- it occurred to me that much of the trepidation people in the United States feel with regard to Barack Obama's campaign for President has to do with the fact that he represents a new generation of political thinking. Although Sarkozy falls squarely within the span of the American Baby Boom, he goes out of his way to appear younger than he actually his. Some would place Obama, born in 1961, within the tail end of the Baby Boom. Personally, I think that date qualifies him as someone caught between the Baby Boom and Generation X, as the differences between his reception and that of Hillary Clinton suggest. The fear, I believe, is that the Obama who is running for office might, like Sarkozy before him, struggle to translate the call for a break with convention into political results.

Roger Cohen had an interesting editorial in The New York Times yesterday in which he sought to ease fears in the American Jewish community that Obama, because of his worldly upbringing and personal experience of Muslim cultures, might constitute a "Manchurian candidate" where Israel is concerned. I agree with Cohen that such worries are baseless. But the notion that Obama, once elected, might turn out to be a lot different than he presents himself on the campaign trail is harder to dismiss. Indeed, I have the sense that many Americans, myself included, are hoping that he will turn out to be a bit of a "Manchurian candidate" where issues of social and economic justice are concerned, someone who really will try to shake up the establishment by turning the hope he constantly invokes into practice. I'm sure that's a major reason why he's raising so much money from small donors. Unfortunately, however, reflection on the recent history of American politics suggests that someone who can raise money as effectively as Obama has may not be able to transform himself from a receiver into a giver. If he is elected and that turns out to be the case, the analogy to Nicolas Sarkozy will seem more apt than it does now, when Obama supporters are flush with the prospect of proving the Establishment wrong.
Tags: media, news, politics
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