February 22, 2008

The Last Yuppie

It's not exactly a coincidence that for the last 15 years, our Presidents were both born in 1946. The previous birth dearth helped Bill Clinton get elected governor at age 32, and let George W. Bush drink away his 20s and 30s without paying a serious (or any) career cost. There just wasn't much competition from the ranks of people one to fifteen years older than them.

In contrast, the late baby boomers of, say, 1955-1964 faced a huge number of early baby boom elders clogging the desirable jobs ahead of them. The later boomers are a huge group, well-nourished, well-educated, with lots of talent. They tended to have a chip on theirs shoulders about the early Baby Boomers, their sense of entitlement and their self-mythologizing. (Thus, for example, punk rock was very much a rebellion of late boomers against the hyperhyped music of the early boomers.) I'm not a big fan of generational analysis, but it's a safe generalization that late boomers tended to feel more constrained, and hence more concerned about their life prospects, than the lucky early boomers.

You seldom hear the quintessential 1980s term "yuppie" anymore, perhaps because the young urban professionals it was first applied to aren't young anymore. But, by Presidential standards, Barack Obama, who was born late in the baby boom in 1961, is still young. And he's definitely urban and professional.

Indeed, he came of age, like so many classic yuppies, in the Reagan years in New York. Like many others at the time, he swore off recreational drugs and excessive drinking, took up jogging, developed some big career ambitions, and seriously set about making them happen. (One exception to the stereotype is that he continued chain-smoking, suggesting perhaps a high-strung personality under the surface that requires some self-medicating via nicotine.)

Now, yuppies accomplished a lot, but they were never exactly well-liked: too calculating, too emotionally cold, too ambitious, and too self-interested are the stereotypes. And that's a problem when your goal has always been to be elected to high office, which is primarily a popularity contest. So, Obama figured out a brilliant way to solve his yuppie problem.

He joined a church in 1988.

He doesn't seem to have any particular religious belief (by his own detailed account, he gets a warm feeling of racial solidarity out of attending church, but it's a stretch to call it a faith), but he was very careful about which church he joined. He picked out the most successful proto-megachurch on the South Side of Chicago, which was led by a superstar sermonizer named Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr..

Now, there are lots of preachers on the South Side, but Wright had two essential qualities:

- Wright's far leftist politics and racial resentment were congenial to Obama;

- Wright was the best, the most successful preacher / organizer around. In the Darwinian dog-eat-dog world of modern Protestantism, Wright is one of the handful of winners who have succeeded in building a megachurch.

So, what was Obama doing in Wright's church all those years?

Studying. The agnostic preppie from Hawaii learned the tricks of the preaching trade from Wright, which allows Obama to drape over his shoulders the vast moral authority our culture has accorded black preachers ever since Martin Luther King, while claiming to merely be promoting technocratic yuppie reforms that won't scare white people.

The English essayist Jonathan Raban writes:

"The title of Obama's book The Audacity of Hope is an explicit salute to a sermon by Wright called "The Audacity to Hope," and his speeches are peppered with Wrightisms, like his repeated claim that "There are more young black men in prison than there are in college," but his debt to the preacher goes much deeper. While Wright works his magic on enormous congregations, with the basic message of liberation theology, that we are everywhere in chains, but assured of deliverance by the living Christ, Obama, when on form, can entrance largely white audiences with the same essential story, told in secular terms and stripped of its references to specifically black experience. When Wright says "white racists," Obama says "corporate lobbyists"; when Wright speaks of blacks, Obama says "hard-working Americans," or "Americans without health care"; when Wright talks in folksy Ebonics, of "hos" and "mojo," Obama talks in refined Ivy League. But the essential design of the piece follows the same pattern as a Wright sermon, in its nicely timed transition from present injustice and oppression to the great joy coming in the morning."

This combination of yuppie smarts and black preacher man eloquence has made Obama the state-of-the-art politician, as impossible to pin down as the shape-shifting liquid metal T-1000 in "Terminator 2."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve -- I think it's a weakness. Obama has nothing to offer working class white men, who make up 25% of the electorate. Obama's upscale appeal will turn them off.

So too his appeal to the Hollywood crowd. It will turn off those who are uncool, know they are uncool, and just want to get ahead -- engineers, accountants, etc.

He's also anti-family in appeal to young hipsters. Very successful in Dems, but that's a sign of the Dem weakness more than anything else. I don't see his appeal to families which you noted was Bush's margin of victory.

Scarlett Johansson may dance around in the video, and will.i.am sing, but so what? How does that beat a meat-and-potatoes tax cut from McCain?

michael farris said...

People are just now figuring this out?

As a teen in high school in the 70's I left the radio on all night tuned to a Nashville station (WLAC?) that broadcast black gospel music starting at around 12.00 am. (I've never been religious but I liked the music). They also regularly broadcast recordings of sermons by black preachers.

It took me about two seconds of hearing Obama speak to make the connection.

He also uses a lot of the standard parallelism and tripartite structures that are effective in spoken English, but that's a different topic.

LemmusLemmus said...

"There are more young black men in prison than there are in college"

That seems to be a pretty standard statement. For one, it can be found on the 1992 self-titled album by Body Count. Of course, it is impossible to say (at least for me) where Ice-T got it from.

dodo said...

Another factor in his shape-shifting may be the reports that he studied the Koran in Arabic and spent a lot of time in the prayer room when younger.

I don't know if that is all true or not, nor do I know how the Arabic Koran recitals affected people as compared to Wright's sermons, but judging by how riled up some Muslim folks have been reported to be leaving the mosque on Friday, there could have been lessons there for him as well.

Anonymous said...

Now, can we get copies of Wright's sermons? someone call Hanna Rosin

Anonymous said...

"How does that beat a meat-and-potatoes tax cut from McCain?"

The problem here is that the federal income tax system is already so progressive, and the tax base so narrow, that most voters pay little-to-no net federal income taxes. So it becomes a competition to give out more transfer payments or grants like the EITC, and that's not a battle Republicans can win against Democrats.

The better approach on taxes from the GOP would be to focus on their effect on job creation, i.e., propose policies that will encourage companies to set-up shop in America and hire more workers (e.g., lower corporate income taxes, defense against vexatious litigation, etc.).

- Fred

steve wood said...

Obama has nothing to offer working class white men, who make up 25% of the electorate. Obama's upscale appeal will turn them off.

Can you explain the numbers that got you to 25%? If non-Hispanic whites are 80% of the electorate, then non-Hispanic white males are 40% (slightly less, actually, since women outnumber men). Are more than 60% of white men working class?

Otherwise, I agree with your point. Obama has had an easy time running against Hillary, who is very unpopular among men. In the general election, some Obama votes will turn out to have been "not Hillary" votes and will end up going to McCain.

On the other hand, he is a very good speaker - the best I've heard among presidential candidates since Reagan - and McCain is not. He is also young and vigorous, and McCain is not. Next to Obama, McCain seems old and tired, and so far he has offered very little to set his policies apart from those of GWB. Obama's energy, newness and oratorical skills may end up outweighing the fact that he is so obviously the whiterpeople's candidate.

Sideways said...

For months I've been reading about how people want to vote for Obama because he's a good speaker. OK, I assume most people are idiots, so I'm not surprised. Then recently I'm reading people writing that they want to vote for him because he's a good orator even though they have no idea what his policies are, and they don't really care.

Why, why would you vote for someone entirely because they make you feel good when they speak? Are people so pathetically educated that they don't know how that's worked out in the past?

mq said...

Another factor in his shape-shifting may be the reports that he studied the Koran in Arabic and spent a lot of time in the prayer room when younger.

Wow, how ignorant do you have to be believe this whopper? Arabic is a very difficult language and Obama certainly did not learn it in Indonesia (a non Arabic speaking country). Not to mention that Obama has never been Muslim or ever attended a Muslim school. The right wing smear machine is cranking up -- they'll repeat flat out lies enough to pick off a few of the most credulous members of the electorate. Did you know Obama killed some people in Arkansas?

Anyway, on the post itself: Steve is right on Obama's shapeshifting mix of cool upper crust technocrat with black preacher oratorical skillz. What he misses with the yuppie connection is that Obama went straight to community organizing when he could have made himself extremely wealthy right out of law school. Not really very yuppie. He does have ideals he is committed to -- whether or not you agree with them.

mq said...

This combination of yuppie smarts and black preacher man eloquence has made Obama the state-of-the-art politician, as impossible to pin down as the shape-shifting liquid metal T-1000 in "Terminator 2."

And I loved this from the main post. Dead on. Steve is at his best when he's forced to grudgingly respect something or someone he dislikes. One thing you see in "Dreams From My Father" in that Obama has already thought his way past the cruder versions of identity politics -- there's a ton of irony in that book, and a lot of self-aware distance between the author and the protagonist. (Steve, who's a literal-minded sort of fellow, tends to miss that). What Obama eventually managed to do was weave together the strengths of various different identities, making them complementary instead of competitive and being at home in each. He's a cool, smart, pragmatic, self-possessed guy.

Tiger Woods, who combined Asian brains and calm with black physical strength to dominate golf is an obvious comparison. Wouldn't it be funny if mulattos, the result of miscegenation, which was the ultimate fear of white racists, ended up being the new master race.

Anonymous said...

Are people so pathetically educated that they don't know how that's worked out in the past?

Yes.

steve wood said...

Why, why would you vote for someone entirely because they make you feel good when they speak? Are people so pathetically educated that they don't know how that's worked out in the past?

In 1980, the mass of voters had only a vague idea of what Ronald Reagan stood for. (Certainly they knew he was conservative, just as most people can - or eventually will - be able to identify Obama as liberal. If they don't notice on their own, the Republicans will tell them.) It's not that he hadn't articulated policies; people just didn't pay close attention to the specifics.

In 2000, Bush won because voters perceived him as more likable than Gore, which strikes me as an equally silly reason to vote for someone.

In other words, it's not like this is some scary new trend. Voters have been making decisions based on superficial qualities for a long time.

dodo said...

Wow, how ignorant do you have to be believe this whopper? Arabic is a very difficult language and Obama certainly did not learn it in Indonesia (a non Arabic speaking country). Not to mention that Obama has never been Muslim or ever attended a Muslim school.

Not sure who is being ignorant here MQ. Obama himself seems to contradict you. Unless you feel he was lying about it in his book. Did you even look at the evidence?

From that site:

He was registered under the name Barry Soetoro, serial number 203. School documents listed Barry Soetoro as an Indonesian citizen and his religion was listed as Islam.


All Indonesian students are required to study religion at school and a young Barry Soetoro, being a Muslim, would have been required to study Islam daily in school.

He would have been taught to read and write Arabic, to recite his prayers properly, to read and recite from the Quran and to study the laws of Islam.

In his autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," Obama mentions studying the Quran and describes the public school as "a Muslim school."

According to Tine Hahiyary, one of Obama's teachers and the principal from 1971 through 1989, Barry actively took part in the Islamic religious lessons during his time at the school. His teacher was named Maimunah and she lived in the Puncak area, the Cianjur Regency.

"I remembered that he had studied "mengaji" (recitation of the Quran)" Tine said.

Our guy in Jakarta writes: "The actual usage of the word 'mengaji' in Indonesian and Malaysian societies means the study of learning to recite the Quran in the Arabic language rather than the native tongue. "Mengagi" is a word and a term that is accorded the highest value and status in the mindset of fundamentalist societies here in Southeast Asia. To put it quite simply, 'mengaji classes' are not something that a non practicing or so-called moderate Muslim family would ever send their child to. To put this in a Christian context, this is something above and beyond simply enrolling your child in Sunday school classes."

"The fact that Obama had attended mengaji classes is well known in Indonesia and has left many there wondering just when Obama is going to come out of the closet."

"As I've stated before, the evidence seems to quite clearly show that both Ann Dunham and her husband Lolo Soetoro Mangunharjo were in fact devout Muslims themselves and they raised their son as such."

Classmate Rony Amiris describes young Barry as enjoying playing football and marbles and of being a very devout Muslim. Amir said, "Barry was previously quite religious in Islam.

"We previously often asked him to the prayer room close to the house. If he was wearing a sarong he looked funny," said Rony.

Amiris now the manager of the Bank Mandiri, Jakarta, recently said, "Barry was previously quite religious in Islam. His birth father, Barack Hussein Obama was a Muslim economist from Kenya. Before marrying Ann Dunham, Hussein Obama was married to a woman from Kenya who had seven children. All the relatives of Barry's father were very devout Muslims"

Rony extrapolates further, that Obama at one point had to change his religion if he ever intended later to run for the office of President of the United States because America would never elect a Muslim to the be President of the United States.

Emirsyah Satar, CEO of Garuda Indonesia, was quoted as saying, "He (Obama) was often in the prayer room wearing a 'sarong', at that time."

"He was quite religious in Islam but only after marrying Michelle, he changed his religion."


Check that post for the primary sources.

Steve Sailer said...

This Obama-is-Muslim idea is a dead-end waste of time. Obama was a small child at the time he spent two years in a public school in Jakarta that featured Muslim instruction. He also spent two years there in a Catholic private school, but nobody says he's a Catholic.

He says the various religious instruction he got didn't have much impact on him. There is zero evidence of him engaging in any kind of Muslim worship during his next 8 years in Hawaii. His classmates have been interviewed repeatedly and nobody ever mentioned him praying toward Mecca five times per day or even mentioning anything about Islam.

His late mother was one of those atheist but spiritual leftist types. His half-Indonesian half-sister says she is now a Buddhist.

Moreover, orthodox Islam is simply too racially egalitarian to fill the hole in Obama's soul for "race and inheritance." He was interested as an adult in the Black Muslims due to their racialism, but he could see they were losers and beyond forging an alliance with one Black Muslim activist, they were more trouble than they were worth to this ambitious young man.

The bottom line is that he's not a very spiritual person, who has chosen to attend a black radical church for various political and psychological reasons.

anony-mouse said...

I'm surprised Steve attributes Obama's chain-smoking to environmental factors. Given that his father was an alcoholic, isn't it more likely that the chain-smoking is an example of an inherited addictive personality?

Lucius Vorenus said...

Steve Sailer: He also spent two years there in a Catholic private school...

...where he was listed on the registration form as having been a Muslim, and where his third-grade teacher recalls him as having attended mosque with his father.

Steve Sailer: This Obama-is-Muslim idea is a dead-end waste of time.

Surely you are not claiming that Obama is not up to his eyeballs in associations with both Muslims and Islam itself?

I assume you're saying that it wouldn't be wise for the McCain campaign [and/or the GOP & the 527's & talk radio & the bloggers etc etc etc] to pursue that angle.

Although even there I would disagree as well - if you think Middle America wants a Muslim running the show, then you're nuts.

Now whether Obama has a religious bone in his body, I have no idea. And whether Obama believes that the Koran is the perfect, immutable word of God as transmitted perfectly and immutably through the archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammed - well, your guess is as good as mine.

My best guess would be that, for a fellow with an ego like Barack Hussein Obama, religion is merely a means to an end.

But to pretend that Obama isn't carrying the baggage of a profound exposure to Islam is just ludicrous:

Barack Obama
freedomsenemies.com

Obama's Nation of Islam Staffers
debbieschlussel.com

Obama's spiritual advisor gives Farrakhan his "lifetime achievement" award
isteve.blogspot.com

Obama and Islam
frontpagemagazine.com

Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam
frontpagemagazine.com

Kenyan Christians could be subjected to Sharia law
christiantoday.com

The Kenyan crisis and Obama
fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com

Odinga says Obama is his cousin
bbc.co.uk

Kenya, Islam and Obama Hussein
atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com

PS: There is even some disturbingly Islamic-sounding rhetoric in Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama's UCLA speech:

Michelle Obama: We have to fix our souls
spengler.atimes.net

PPS: Here's a photo of Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro, wearing the hijab, circa 1970:

dunham_soetoro_obama.jpg

.

Steve Sailer said...

Has anybody seen Obama do _anything_ indicating a belief in orthodox Islam (i.e., not the Black Muslim, who are rather like Mormons or Scientologists are to Christianity) since he arrived back in the United States at age 10?

mq said...

Has anybody seen Obama do _anything_ indicating a belief in orthodox Islam (i.e., not the Black Muslim, who are rather like Mormons or Scientologists are to Christianity) since he arrived back in the United States at age 10?

By the time he arrived back in the U.S. at age 10, B. Hussein Osama was already being groomed as a deep-cover Muslim extremist "mole", a double agent who would eventually run for President. To do this, it was necessary to hide any traces of his earlier Muslim indoctrination. Any youthful acquaintances who had seen evidence of his secret nightly prayer sessions have since been eliminated.

Much the same methodology was used with the youthful Bill Clinton, who after returning to the U.S. from his trip to meet his KGB handlers in 1969, successfully concealed his intense Communist indoctrination. This deep cover op succeeded as KGB operative Clinton eventually became President and plunged the U.S. into chaos through his promiscuous sexual affairs.

Dedicated patriotic researchers associated with the Republican party uncovered both conspiracies...but this time, will the nation listen?

meathead said...

"Obama's spiritual advisor gives Farrakhan his "lifetime achievement" award
isteve.blogspot.com"


Hey lucius,

I'm sure Steve's aware of that one. :)

dodo said...

I doubt Obama felt much personally about Islam one way or the other, but it seems to me that many people around him did feel that he was a good Muslim boy, which makes sense, as he is and was a shape shifter. People see in him what they want, I guess. That includes folks looking for a Muslim. But with the name "Barack Hussein Obama" that is pretty excusable, imo.

As they have been doing, I suspect that the Clinton camp will bring up more of this stuff. ;-)

Btw, does anyone have any ideas about what this is all about?

AMac said...

Tin foil hat time in this thread.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Steve Sailer: Has anybody seen Obama do _anything_ indicating a belief in orthodox Islam (i.e., not the Black Muslim, who are rather like Mormons or Scientologists are to Christianity) since he arrived back in the United States at age 10?

But you could just as well ask: Has anybody seen Obama do _anything_ indicating he does not harbor a belief in [or, at, the very least, a sympathy for] Orthodox Islam?

Look, for the time being, set aside the fact that his childhood was thoroughly immersed in Islam [and that his mother appears to have converted to Islam herself], and concentrate on his recent activity, and the recent activity of his closest associates:

Why is the guy's campaign and his Senate office riddled with Muslims?

Why is his own minister giving awards to an insane, monomaniacal fascist like Louis Farrakhan?

Why is his wife mixing Islamic rhetoric in with the Christian rhetoric in her speeches?

And then there's Kenya.

Here's a picture of Obama, with Raila Odinga, in Kenya, in August of 2006:

obama_odinga_august_2006.jpg
obama_odinga_august_2006_WIDE.jpg

A year later, in August, of 2007, Raila Odinga signed an agreement with Sheikh Abdullahi Abdi to implement Sharia law if Odinga were to win the Muslim vote:

Kenyan Christians could be subjected to Sharia law
christiantoday.com

Now, another year later, and we've got Odinga supporters burning and hacking Christians to death:

Children torched in Kenya church
theaustralian.news.com.au

This, of course, is the same Raila Odinga who claims to be Barack Hussein Obama's cousin:

Odinga says Obama is his cousin
news.bbc.co.uk

So I'd ask you: Do you know anyone who knows Louis Farrakhan?

Do you know anyone who goes out of his way to employ Muslims in his place of business?

Have you ever had your picture taken with anyone who signs agreements to enter into Sharia law and then burns Christians alive in their churches when he doesn't get his way?

dodo said...

Don't forget now that Reverend Wright is apparently a former Muslim himself, LV. ;-)

Curiouser and curiouser...

mq said...

Here is a picture of our current President, George Bush, with a known Muslim! This Saudi Arabian enforces Sha'ria law, finances extremist Wahabbi sects all over the world, including some who support Osama Bin Laaden, and oppresses Christians in his country!

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/04/images/20020425-4-2-515h.jpg

The Muslim threat...it's EVERYWHERE.

dodo said...

Well, mq, I'm not sure that the threat is everywhere, but I agree, W has made some very poor choices wrt Muslims.

Maybe we need a leader who speaks the language, no?

Robert said...

"Dedicated patriotic researchers associated with the Republican party uncovered both conspiracies...but this time, will the nation listen?"


Steve, I think that you opened up the Pandora's Box of conspiricy theories with this post!

dodo said...

Steve, I think that you opened up the Pandora's Box of conspiricy theories with this post!

Yeah, the new one is that the "Dedicated patriotic researchers associated with the Republican party" are actually being led by none other than Hillary Clinton.

It's funny how that one works.

dodo said...

I understand that Clinton's operatives are this minute trying to figure out how to capitalize on the fact that Obama was playing to Islamic Somalis who, while not exactly the Janjaweed, could be conflated with the crisis du jour in Darfur, and the terrible treatment of genuine black Africans.

Maybe she is in secret communication with Rove over this. ;-) Better yet would be her supporter Spielberg, who recently quit the Olympics over China's support for the Muslim Sudanese government.

Does Obama stand in true solidarity with the victimized black Sudanese anyway? He seems to be blaming Bush.

All very confusing.

;-)

Anonymous said...

I do not believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. I do believe he was raised in a household where anti-Americanism was rife:
http://tinyurl.com/2l7b7n