Monday, June 09, 2008

The Obama Bubble

I got my U of C B-School degree downtown with the free-market Milton Friedman fans so I don't go way back with Obama's Hyde Park, but I would agree it is unique.

In the upcoming issue of TWS, Andrew Ferguson dissects Hyde Park, Barack Obama's political stomping grounds in Chicago, "Mr. Obama's Neighborhood". As Ferguson notes, despite Obama's protestations, most Americans would not mistake unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers for Mr. Rogers. Among the residents Ferguson interviewed was the rabbi across the street from the Obama manse, who spoke of the urban renewal of the neighborhood in the 50's:
But it made the neighborhood different, unique. You notice there's no class conflict here."

He twinkled.

"That's because there's only one class--upper!"

The irony would be funny if it weren't so jarring: Black America, after 400 years of enforced second-class status, offers the country a plausible presidential candidate, and what's the charge made against him? He's an elitist.

Hyde Park may be partly responsible. Obama does show signs of having imbibed its view of the America beyond the moat. David Mendell, in his indispensable biography Obama: From Promise to Power, quotes a co-worker of Obama: "[Obama] always talked about the New Rochelle train, the trains that took commuters to and from New York City, and he didn't want to be on one of those trains every day. The image of a life, not a dynamic life, of going through the motions. .  .  . That was scary to him." In his own memoir, Obama depicts his mother fleeing the "smugness and hypocrisy" of her small Midwestern town--a town that Obama visited for the first time this year, campaigning. Only a lack of familiarity with the benign flow of middle-class American life could inspire clich├ęs like these.
Um, yeah. And yes, Hyde Park is a liberal bubble, isolated by miles from the downtown Loop, built on the remnants of the 19th century Colombian Exposition. The Museum of Science and Industry still stands from that era. I don't think the University had much of a choice about creating this more artificial oasis--or it would have died, overwhelmed by crime, and the museum and much of the grace and history of the neighborhood with it. The university, a private institution, survived as an oasis of learning and excellence, which has helped the community in concrete ways. For one, University of Chicago hospitals are among the best in the country. Its scientists (and at least up until now its economists) regularly win Nobel Prizes.

The U of C didn't have much of a choice--but Barack Obama did. He chose to live in a liberal bubble, though he may not have realized it--when has he NOT lived in a liberal milieu? He didn't challenge the Chicago Machine, he co-opted it. And he used the racist Rev. Wright, (and maybe his marriage) for street cred.(He used Tony Rezko for street money.) I don't fault him for building political alliances, but I do fault him for the whipped-up hate America speech (and anti-Semitism from the Rev. Wright and others. Latest here and here!!) he has condoned for so long and the contempt for many Americans that he rode to victory in the primary.

There is nothing unique and admirable about that.

Hyde Park has been described as Berkeley with snow:
"Not 'Berkeley with snow,'  " a U. of C. professor said, when I mentioned my friend's comment to him. "It's the snow that keeps us from being Berkeley. The snow and the cold keep the street people away. It drives everyone inside. You don't have all the students who dropped out of school or graduated and refused to leave. If they stay, they do something. If not, they get out of town. It's too cold just to hang around."
Barack Obama is busily off in search of his "more perfect union", but it seems like he's still stuck in his very own, so special fake bubble of a snowglobe. Shake him up for a lofty speech--but then will voters put him back on the shelf? We the People may want the Blessings of Liberty more than the false and cheerless hope of Perfection.

P.S. And doesn't this creep you out, from Hillary:
But it was not the only echo of her former opponent’s rhetoric. “Together, Senator Obama and I achieved milestones essential to our progress as a nation, part of our perpetual duty to form a more perfect union,” she declared.
How Hillary. (You know, one of the reasons I can't stand Hillary is she always reminds me of me at my worst.) How dreary. More like a liberal millstone around our necks. (Ah, but we still have Michelle with the angry, bossy talk.)

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