I don’t know if Obama’s cool and collected debate demeanor is a strategy or simply who he is, but as much as I would personally like to see our candidate punch back as good as he gets—and better—I think last night’s approach ultimately serves him well.
Not because voters don’t want to see their presidents appear strong—they most emphatically do—but Obama, perhaps uniquely, must carefully avoid appearing too strong. If you know what I mean….
Ahem… um… as McCain might phrase it, “the point is“… while we may have come a long way toward fulfulling Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, white America doesn’t much like its big, black men to appear aggressive or threatening… and in case you hadn’t noticed, Barack Obama is a big, black man.
Oh sure, on the football field or the basketball court such aggression is accepted and even celebrated, but in the political arena the standards are quite different. Yes, in politics, we still like our big, black men to be orderly and loyal, like Colin Powell, or quiet like Justice Thomas… or even a sweet, dumb, gentle giant like that character in The Long Green Mile.
But threatening? No, Obama can’t afford to come off as threatening, let alone contemptuous of an elderly white man like McCain. So as much as I’m with the brawling Irishmen on what I’d personally like to see from our candidate, I understand I’m not the typical swing voter, and nowhere near the mindset of an undecided independent. No, as much as it may pain me, Obama needs to show McCain respect, even when it is totally unreciprocated, if he is to win the hearts, minds and votes of the uncommitted.
He may not have stirred any passions in his base, but I’m guessing more voters than not came away from the debate with a greater sense of comfort in the notion of Obama as commander in chief, and that’s all he needed to achieve last night.
man, but David's point is well-taken.