If truth be told, however, Obama earned his Ivy League degrees the hard way, while the child of privilege in this year’s presidential contest is John McCain. McCain obtained his appointment to the U.S. Navy Academy because his father and grandfather had been there, and McCain’s path to the Senate was made easy because his predecessor, Barry Goldwater, liked his father, Admiral Jack McCain.Link.
Yet McCain always passes over his privileged history, while making much of the fact that he finished at the bottom of his class at Annapolis to establish his bona fides as a regular guy. In addition, McCain invokes his laudable Vietnam POW experience as evidence of his physical toughness and stamina, qualities to which regular guys can easily aspire.
Overall, the Times’ report suggests that to get elected president today the candidate must “make an emotional connection [with average American voters]” which helps to win their “trust and confidence” – which are essential. Trust and confidence are not won by academic pedigree or prestigious educational success. To the contrary, for (too) many voters, it is necessary to shed such accomplishments to win this kind of loyalty. Ivy League degrees are considered by many as indicia of arrogance and privilege (whether such qualities belong to the degreeholder or not).
Dr. Westen also addressed the emotionally-loaded question of race in passing in The Political Brain. He explains that Obama, like every African-American candidate for Senate or President in the near future, needs to study the effectively-orchestrated Republican campaign run against Congressman Harold Ford (also an African-American), when he sought to win a Senate seat in Tennessee in 2006. It was a “psychologically sophisticated” undertaking built on racism. It worked. And Republicans got away with it, paying no price for their underhanded tactics, but rather winning a Senate seat.
The Democrats were fearful of talking about race in the Ford campaign, Westen observes. This was a mistake. They failed to call attention to the racist campaign being waged against them, and they did not call the GOP on its morally reprehensive decision to play to people’s prejudice. The same kid of racist campaign has already started with Obama, and if the Obama campaign and his supporters do not call attention to it, John McCain will gain an easy victory, only to bring us the third term of the Bush/Cheney Administration.