Obama's middle-class values

Posted in Politics at 9:27 am by ducky

One of the things I really like about Obama is what, for lack of a better term, I will call middle-class values.  He does things like clean up after himself at an ice cream shop, carry his own luggage (pictures here and here and here) and says he turns off lights and will make his kids do chores in the White House.  I don’t recall ever seeing any of the presidents in my adult lifetime — Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, or Bush 43 — ever carrying anything, even when they were campaigning.  I suspect that Bush 41 never washed a dish or picked up dog poop — ever.  I can’t imagine that either of the Clintons would do so now.

People in power frequently have other people do mundane things for them.  There is a potential that, by doing things himself, Obama could make himself seem less powerful. Jimmy Carter once spent the night in a private home, and it was reported in all the newspapers that he made the bed himself.  My recollection of that is that people were kind of incredulous at him diminishing himself that way.  However, Jimmy Carter ran with a persona of folksiness.  (He was Jimmy Carter, not James Earl Carter, Jr.)  He had to struggle a little against being perceived as a rube, a southern bumpkin.

I don’t think Obama really risks debasing himself in the public eye by doing mundane things for himself.  In contrast to Jimmy Carter, Obama has a public persona that is a bit cold and standoffish.  He even got attacked for being elitist for a little while.  Doing mundane things for himself counters that perception.

Maybe he carefully does these mundane things for show.  Maybe he’s conscious of it and wants to “keep it real”.  But maybe it’s part of his value system that he is not inherently better than other people, and should play by the same rules as the rest of the world.  (Unlike, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has demonstrated a pattern throughout his life of acting like rules were for other people.)  I hope so.

1 Comment »

  1. Tamfang said,

    December 3, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I’m irrelevantly reminded of an episode of MASH. Colonel Potter, annoyed that Mulcahy’s promotion has not gone through, calls the chief of chaplains at the Pentagon; and remarks in an aside to Radar, “Answers his own phone! Must be a Unitarian.”

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