David Greenberg over at Slate has a piece about Barack Obama as Adlai Stevenson. (That is a bit of an unfair summary of Greenberg’s point – but he places Obama in the same political camp as the Mugwumps and Adlai.) Just a few weeks ago, Shaun Mullen, proprietor of the Kiko’s House blog “Is Barack Obama the New Gene McCarthy?” and answers, on the whole, yes. Some time before that Ted Sorenson, among others, began to compare Obama to JFK.
There’s always a bit of this going around – with Hillary and Giuliani both being compared to Nixon; Fred Thompson to Reagan; and Mitt Romney to JFK. But it is my sense that pundits are having a harder time placing Obama than any other candidate in the race. The comparisons to Nixon are based on the shared paranoia mainly; those of Fred Thompson have to do with his TV style; Mitt Romney because of the religious issue. The Obama analogies are different. Rather than attempting to make a historical comparison on a single point, they attempt to place his entire political presence.
I think the reason is that it is clear to most pundits where Hillary comes from – what tradition she is part of; the same is true of every other candidate. Obama represents a break. He represents a point of view that does not come out of nowhere, but is new to the political scene. He represents a new synthesis.
This is why everyone is struggling to explain him away with interesting (and insightful) historical analogies. And this is also why everyone so far has failed.
One reply on “The Historical Obama”
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