David Brooks has a smart column in the NYT today – The Identity Trap – that almost doesn’t go far enough. Identity politics isn’t just “dead,” in the immortal words of Preston Sturges, “it’s decomposed.” (Sturges was referring to “chivalry.”)
People like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are like woolly mammoths trying to keep their feet out of the La Brea Tar Pits. Everyone knows Colin Powell could have been elected President years ago. And Ms. Magazine is as much an artifact of another era as the original Sears, Roebuck catalog (although of less cultural interest). The idea of a woman President being something extraordinary is an eye-roller in a time when women already outnumber men in law and medical school. The way thngs are going, it’s the man President that may be the exception in thirty or forty years.
So Brooks is right – let’s hope the candidates can spare us the identity drivel. He throws a bouquet to Clinton when it comes to substance: “When she talks about policy, she will dazzle you.” But doesn’t mention Obama in that area. I’m not surprised. There isn’t much to say. I have no idea what Obama really stands for. He’s been brilliant at being evasive. John McCain – whose every policy has been torn apart, deconstructed and spit out by the folks at NRO and elsewhere – should be envious. Or maybe not. McCain, unlike Clinton and Obama, has real experience. Voters may be responding to that. It’s a good deal more substantive that blather about “hope” and “change.”