Some of the Republicans' afflictions are self-inflicted. Some conservatives who are gluttons for punishment are getting a head start on ensuring a 2012 drubbing by prescribing peculiar medication for a misdiagnosed illness. They are monomaniacal about media bias, which is real but rarely decisive, and unhinged by their anger about the loathing of Sarah Palin by similarly deranged liberals. These conservatives, confusing pugnacity with a political philosophy, are hot to anoint Palin, an emblem of rural and small-town sensibilities, as the party's presumptive 2012 nominee.
These conservatives preen as especially respectful of regular -- or as Palin says, "real" -- Americans, whose tribune Palin purports to be. But note the argument that the manipulation of Americans by "the mainstream media" explains the fact that the more Palin campaigned, the less Americans thought of her qualifications. This argument portrays Americans as a bovine herd -- or as inert clay in the hands of wily media, which only Palin's conservative celebrators can decipher and resist.
These conservatives, smitten by a vice presidential choice based on chromosomes, seem eager to compete on the Democrats' terrain of identity politics, entering the "diversity" sweepstakes they have hitherto rightly deplored. We have seen this movie before. Immediately after the 1972 election, some conservatives laid down the law -- the 1976 Republican nominee must be Vice President Spiro Agnew.
For now, the president-elect is coming to terms with something noted by Ambrose Bierce, the 19th-century American wit who wrote "The Devil's Dictionary." He defined "president" as the leading figure in a small group of persons of whom it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want them to be president. Tuesday night, Obama, in his agreeably subdued speech in Grant Park, seemed to feel the weight of that.
He especially seemed determined to assuage the unease of those, and they are many, who discern in his cool demeanor an unattractive detachment from the warm, unembarrassed, demonstrative patriotism that is distinctively American. Hence such Grant Park language as: "Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us." That was a prospective commander in chief finding his voice.