The Obama boomlet

Even though the 2006 election has yet to take place, nearly everyone is buzzing about Barack Obama’s prospects in 2008. Even Charles Krauthammer has taken up the subject. Obama’s fans, including his “campaign manager” Tim Russert (hat tip, Michael Barone) see him as a “different kind of Democrat” with a “compelling life story.”
I’m not clear on why Obama is a different kind of Democrat. Ben Nelson and Tim Johnson represent a different kind of Democrat — moderate Dems. Joe Lieberman is a different kind of Democrat — a conventional liberal on domestic issues, but a foreign policy “hawk.” Obama fits into neither group, nor can anyone have expected him to. There’s no national political future, and perhaps not much of an Illinois future, for these types of Democrats. And there is no reason to think Obama shares the views of Nelson, Johnson, or Lieberman.
But, given the hype, one might have expected (though I did not) that Obama would differentiate himself from generic liberal Democrats in some substantive way. This has yet to occur; Obama’s voting record is straight liberal and straight party line. All that differentiates him is the happenstance of his race and his ability to crank out such phrases as “the audacity of hope,” that turn on the Tim Russerts of the world but have no substantive political meaning.
Nor, apart from his boyhood in the war-ravaged Hawaii of the 1960s, is there anything terribly compelling about Obama’s life story. Though not as privileged as Harold Ford (scion of a corrupt West Tennessee political dynasty), Obama appears never to have suffered deprivation. The black Senate candidate with the compelling story (to the extent this matters) is Michael Steele — raised by the daughter of a sharecropper who herself worked for decades in a laundromat. And Steele has actually worked with members of the opposite party, having past connections with various D.C. Democratic politicians. Yet one rarely sees much about Steele’s biography in the MSM, which prefers endlessly to repeat how he supports President Bush.
The most compelling life story of any major public figure I know belongs to Justice Clarence Thomas. Even the Democrats found that story compelling. First, it compelled them to dig up an alleged sex scandal (with no sex). Then, recognizing what Thomas’ life story might mean in terms of his views on government and welfare state, it compelled them to vote almost unanimously against his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
UPDATE: Obama has sent a letter to supporters urging them to back left-wing Democrat Ned Lamont over Sen. Lieberman.

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