Jonah Goldberg
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Oh, I know. Upon reading that, some liberal spluttered herbal chai tea from her nose at the injustice of this whole elitist canard, and the earnest Ivy League interns at some liberal magazine have burst into laughter, offering the appropriate bons mots from Balzac at the preposterousness of such a suggestion, saying: "Don't you conservatives understand? Democrats care about the little guy. They're on the side of the proletariat - I mean workers - and as Obama has so eloquently put it, if the workers would only stop clinging to their silly sky god and guns, they'd understand that."

Liberalism is often a problem at the presidential level. Cultural liberalism is a burden. Haughty cultural liberalism is a disaster in the making. For good or ill, the presidency is a cultural institution as much as it is a political institution. And it's fundamentally a culturally conservative one. Fair or not, many perceive Obama as a cultural outsider. This week, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said of Obama's friendship with former left-wing domestic terrorist Bill Ayers: "They're friends. So what?"

Psephologist and columnist Michael Barone noticed during the primaries that, with the exception of the black vote, Obama's support within the Democratic Party is comprised almost entirely of cultural liberals. He dubbed this intra-Democratic split a divide between "academics and Jacksonians." The Jacksonians are working-class, culturally conservative whites. The academics are the same people who formed the base for Howard Dean, Bill Bradley, Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart, George McGovern and other successful presidents in the anti-matter universe where Spock has a goatee.

In this universe, however, you need Jacksonians more than you need academics to win a general election, which is one reason why no non-Southern Democrat has won the presidency in nearly a half-century. It's not that voters love Southerners, either. Rather, Southern Democrats simply seem more Jacksonian (even so, only Jimmy Carter won with a majority of the popular vote).

Obama may still win, of course, proving that America is not only ready for a black president, but a cultural liberal as well. If he loses, though, you can be sure Democrats will claim he lost not because he is a black and more charming Michael Dukakis, but simply because he is black. Because liberals are never wrong.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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