Back to the Future

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Mar 24, 2008 8:23 PM
As Hugh Hewitt notes, he has been playing excerpts of Barack Obama's reading his book, "Dreams From My Father."  Audience reaction has been mixed about hearing the first presidential candidate, as Hugh puts it, who has "purposefully recorded himself swearing so profusely or with such variety."

Contrary to the rapturous claims that Barack could end the "culture wars," hearing Hugh's audience react suggests, in fact, quite the opposite.  Callers seemed quite distinctly divided into two camps that are completely consistent with the customary understandings of the two factions of the culture war -- cultural traditionalists and cultural leftists.

In fact, one could view the reaction to "Dreams of My Father" as sort of a cultural Rorschach ink blot test.  The book turns off cultural traditionalists, what with the admitted drug use, the cursing, etc., etc. -- most of all, however, with Barack's willingness to recall and record those behaviors without any seeming recognition that it might be inappropriate, at best, for a political leader (and a man who's perhaps the next President of the United States) to be casually cursing and reading aloud about his own drug use.  Conversely, cultural leftists will like him even more than before because of those same behaviors (most of all, his willingness recall and to recount them in detail) -- because they endow him with the left's most beloved quality, "authenticity." 

It's hard not to conclude that the hype about Barack's potential to transcend the culture wars will go the way of the claims that he would transcend racial divisions.  The culture war wages on; different words, same tune.