It's About Who You Are.

In my continuing effort to point out when I agree with conservatives, Ross Douthat is absolutely right in his assessment of Glenn Beck:

Now more than ever, Americans love leaders who seem to validate their way of life. This spirit of self-affirmation was at work in evangelicals' enduring support for Bush, in the enthusiasm for the Dean campaign among the young, secular and tech-savvy, and now in the devotion that Palin inspires among socially conservative women. The Obama campaign raised it to an art form, convincing voters that by merely supporting his candidacy, they were proving themselves cosmopolitan and young-at-heart, multicultural and hip. 

In a sense, Beck's "Restoring Honor" was like an Obama rally through the looking glass. It was a long festival of affirmation for middle-class white Christians — square, earnest, patriotic and religious. If a speaker had suddenly burst out with an Obama-esque "we are the ones we’ve been waiting for," the message would have fit right in.

The only part I'd disagree with is "Now more than ever," because it has always been so. Politics isn't about issues; it's about identity, and Barack Obama was the first Democrat to understand that in some time. The fact that we now have a black president has made the "white" part of that "middle-class white Christians" somewhat more salient, and provocateurs of the airwaves like Beck and Rush Limbaugh have picked up on it, hammering on tales of white victimhood.

Unlike a radio host, who can succeed with a relatively small slice of the population, the key for a politician is crafting your narrative of identity in such a way as to maximize the number of people who can put themselves inside it. Which is the problem for people like Palin: White evangelical Christian women from small towns may love her, but there aren't enough of them to get her to the White House.

-- Paul Waldman

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