Monday, April 28, 2008


From Only in America By Evan Thomas, Holly Bailey and Richard Wolffe:

Americans do not like to talk about class, and they want to believe racism is a thing of the past. Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, paragons of the people, were decidedly upper class in background, style and habit, and no one seemed to mind (except some other members of the upper class, who regarded the Roosevelts as "traitors" for wanting to tax and regulate the rich). JFK and Ronald Reagan were princely in their own ways (of Camelot and Hollywood) and yet could touch the hearts of common men and women. We want our presidents to be everyman (or every woman), of the people for all the people. When Richard Nixon dressed the White House guards in uniforms more appropriate to the late Austro-Hungarian Empire, everyone hooted.
What is just weird is this: how can it be that a black man running for president is accused of being too elitist? For the first century of the nation's existence, blacks were kept in chains. For the next century, they were sent to the back of the bus and kept away from whites-only lunch counters and restrooms throughout the South—much less allowed to join the white elite in their schools and clubs and prestigious institutions. Then, starting in the 1960s, American society began to make a concerted effort to open up those doors. Barack Obama is not so much the beneficiary of that effort as the proof that blacks can make it on their own, if given the chance. He was, despite a modest upbringing, elected editor of the Harvard Law Review, a position at the very tip of the meritocratic ziggurat.

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