Garrison Keillor, a personal favorite, has broken for Obama. As I suspected a while back, Obama seems to be doing well with the literary crowd—gathering in Michael Chabon, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and now Garrison Keillor. There may be others, but I can’t find them in the five minutes I can afford looking around on the web. Still, it’s not a total lock. Maya Angelou and John Grisham have put in for Clinton, with Angelou putting forth with about as much sagacious pomposity as Morrison mustered for Obama. According to Angelou, embedded below, we should be attracted to Clinton because “she gives herself authority to be in her own skin… to be who she is.” We further discover that Hillary has the honesty to stand up and say “Yes, I am a woman.” And further that she is her mother and grandmother and an great grandmother and great greats. And all women. And she is even Maya Angelou.
Going to be a crowded Lincoln bedroom. And here we thought we were only going to get a two-fer with Hillary and Bill.
Seriously though, I have some trouble with the notion that women ought to vote for Hillary because she’s a woman, any more than a man ought to vote for Obama because he’s a man or because he’s black, or McCain because he’s a man or because he’s white. This being said, I know it happens, consciously and unconsciously. So I don’t have an absolute problem with Angelou being straightforward about it. What strikes me, however, is that Clinton supporters have been quite frank and straightforward in arguing that people ought to vote for Clinton because she’s a woman. I don’t see quite the same straightforward statement by any prominent black supporters of Obama. And of course it would be absolutely politically impossible for someone to get up and say they were voting for Obama or McCain or Huckabee because they were men. So the rhetorical strategies are still interesting. What’s allowed and what’s not allowed. My general sense, still, is that Obama is the wiser in playing down a unique appeal to a “natural” constituency. Can Clinton speak for and to everyone. She doesn’t really try to make that case, and I imagine it will cost her in a general election.
Back to Keillor. Much more understated as befits a Minnesotan. Though, it must be said that Keillor’s understatement is no less strategic or conventional the Angelou’s and Morrison’s self-inflation.
“I’m happy to support your candidacy, which is so full of promise for our country,” the best-selling author and humorist wrote in a letter declaring his support. “Seven years of a failed presidency is a depressing thing, and the country is pressing for a change and looking for someone with clear vision who is determined to break through the rhetorical logjam and find sensible ways to move our country forward. That’s you, friend.”
“And of course it will be exciting to have a president who can speak with grace and power to the American people,” Keillor wrote.
A war that’s left 10s of thousand dead or maimed, and has saddled our grandchildren with crippling debts has left Keillor depressed. Well, perhaps this is self-inflation of a very understated sort. From what I gather though, many things leave the good Lutheran depressed, and for the melancholy another thirty or forty thousand dead is par for the course in the scheme of things.
Keillor’s compliments to Obama’s rhetoric stand out. Obama couldn’t muster a great deal of grace and power in his response, however.
“I’ve been entertained and inspired by Garrison Keillor’s work through the years,” Obama said in a statement. “As president, I will wake up every day thinking about how I can help make life better in places like Lake Wobegon all across the country.”
Umm. Ok. This is EXACTLY why I thought Obama was running. To help all those good folks with white picket fences in the land that time forgot. It’s an interesting contrast, of course, since Keillor, despite his liberalism, has made his literary career on the examination of a white ethnic community as “typically American” in an era when it’s typicality has faded by the hour. Indeed, there is no measure of how atypical Lake Woebegon really is than the candidacy of Barack Obama.
Have they even seen black people in Lake Woebegon. I have my doubts. As much as I love the show. I can’t remember a single one.