Monday, December 21, 2009

A President shouldn't be too pretty ...

You may remember my description of the Tsongas/Tootsie effect. If not, you can go search for it on this blog. Obama is not suffering through that. Rather he seems to have a different problem I think I might call the attractive person effect (bear with me, I am making this up as I go). I was going to call this the romantic girl effect, but guys are just as vulnerable to the effect. I was going to call it romantic girl because I have been checking out online personals (the ones written by women), and many seem to be calling for a man who knows how a woman wants to be treated, and plaintively asking whether such a man still exists. The inference I draw from that is that the writer of the personal ad has not encountered too many men with this quality, at least not in reality (TV and romance novels tell a different story, I believe).

The thing is, when you see an attractive guy or girl, even if you are already involved with someone, you often attribute certain qualities to them, even if there is no particular evidence for that. So if attractive person you see does not immediately kiss someone else, you may think they might be available. I believe I have read that attractive people are assumed to be smart until proven otherwise (studies have shown) and I suspect attractive people would also be assumed to be nice. Particularly if you pair an attractive man with a woman looking for a man who knows how to treat a woman... wait, what I meant to say is if you pair an attractive politician with a needy voter, someone who hasn't had a compatible President for eight (long) years, and before that had a President who fooled around with ... conservative ideas (well what did you think I was going to say), well ... let's just say I think a lot of voters and pundits imbued Obama was their own ideas of who he should (and could) be.

I know I have mentioned at least once that during the campaign Politico ran an article about Obama's Law Review Presidency. While it did not say Obama favored conservatives over liberals then, it did have remarks from a conservative professor who said that Obama made suggestions even from the conservative point of view. I am not saying Obama is some sort of closet conservative, rather that he has always been aware that a black man is assumed to be liberal, and if he wants to work with conservatives must start the relationship making concessions. Of course that is unfair, but it reflects the reality of the US in 2009. And of course it has worked about as well as the stimulus. Despite concessions like a high percentage of tax cuts in the stimulus, putting a surge into Afghanistan and be willing to make major concessions into health care, Republicans have moved in (almost) lock step on every major piece of legislation and they continue to make accusations ("you lie") and insinuations. But Obama has given them no big lever, no way for the Republicans to say "aha, told you he was a Socialist".

But progressives are upset that Obama has not turned out to be the white kni-... black knight(?) .... savior(?)...well, that Obama has not turned out to be the advocate for the poor and downtrodden they thought he would be. I can understand that, I am a little surprised myself. I mean, I can understand being nice to the banks and Wall Street, our financial markets are part of what makes us a great country. At the same time, c'mon (I am tihnking of those Playstation commercials).

During the campaign, a liberal (or at least moderate) pundit raised the idea of the "magic negro". Conservative pundits like Rush Limbqaugh seized on the idea within hours of it have been broached, rendering it immediately off limits. Too bad, here was a good topic for discussion. Are we thinking Obama will fix all our problems? First black President and a Democrat to boot, he would have the opportunity to put everything right. I am fairly well convinced Obama thinks to himself, here I am, first black President and a Democrat to boot, if I don't tread carefully these white folks won't let another black man into the White House for 50 years.

I am willing to give Obama a lot of latitude on things, his policies, the stimulus, the economy, Afghanistan, healthcare and other things. Really, would Hillary (or McCain) have done any better? Hillary might well have been more confrontational than Obama has been. I suspect that does not mean she would have been successful, rather it is more likely she would have been called shrill and a bitch several times by now, and burned some bridges that Obama has so far left intact.

Make I am just projecting my wishes onto Obama, but I am waiting for his second term. By then, having not pushed as hard against the Republicans as he could have, Obama will have the luxury of not having to worry about being re-elected and he can start to do the things we thought(/feared?) the "magic negro" can use the opportunity to try to more agressive legislation for the poor and the environment.

And after his second term, in some time-span (ten, maybe twenty years), during a Democratic administration, Obama can be nominated to the Supreme Court.

1 comment:

Vannevar said...

Hello Ed,
Off topic, but I'd like to point this 12/23 Doonesbury out to you-

Merry Christmas,