Barack Obama is finally coming into focus.
For a while now, the Obamaphiles have insisted that their candidate
represents a profound break with the past. No more culture wars. No more
"re-litigating the 1960s," in Obama's own words.
But what about re-litigating the 1980s?
There's always been a certain cultural lag time to Barack and Michelle
Obama, a kitschiness that's hard to pinpoint. But I think I've got it:
They're self-hating yuppies straight out of the 1980s, which were to the
Obamas what the 1960s were to the Clintons.
For those too young to remember, "yuppie" was shorthand for young urban
professionals - think Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton in the TV series
"Family Ties" - who allegedly represented the collapse of '60s values and
the triumph of '80s greed. Yuppies sold their souls for a BMW and a c
Ironically, the biggest complaints about yuppie materialism came from
self-loathing liberal yuppies - like the Obamas.
The Obamas still seem stuck in that time warp, clinging to '80s-style
resentments and political assumptions. Michelle Obama is never so eloquent
as when she's complaining about the burden of student loans for her two Ivy
League degrees and covering the high cost of summer camp and piano lessons
for her kids on her family's half-million-dollars-a-year income.
"Don't go into corporate America," she exhorted low-income working mothers
in Ohio in February, even though she is a highly compensated hospital
executive. She admits to being consumed with "a constant sense of guilt"
over having to balance work, politics and family. "It's guilt, feeling
guilty all the time."
It's telling that for the Clintons, JFK defined politics, but for Obama,
Ronald Reagan is the role model. Last year, Obama admitted to admiring the
Gipper's "transformative" leadership (though not his policies). Indeed, not
only did Reagan restore confidence in the nation while reducing confidence
in government, he put a stake in the heart of the "Vietnam syndrome" and the
blame-America-first ethos of the Democratic Party. The Reagan Revolution
moved the country durably to the right - so much so that even Democrats saw
the writing on the wall. Obama wants to erase that writing.
As countless commentators have chronicled, Bill Clinton's 1992 victory
stemmed from the fact that he was a "different kind of Democrat" - that is,
one who understood the lessons of Reaganism, or at least claimed to, and
rejected the "brain-dead policies" of the old Democratic Party. He was a
pro-death-penalty free-trader who oversaw the triumph of the Reaganite