First Dude. That’s what they call him in Alaska. It’s OK. Todd’s Ok. Whatever. He smiles at Greta Van Susteren. Not a touch of noblesse. More like plan old politesse. I always laugh a little when I see people who are very much not ordinary Americans in any respect (pay, fame, education or overall wealth, for starters) try to speak for them. “This is what ordinary Americans want,” says someone whose only contact with them may be while his face is getting powdered for TV.
The truth is President Bush was not an ordinary American, nor was John McCain, nor has Joe Biden been one for 40 years — which is long enough to not be one — nor is anyone who graduates from Harvard Law or Princeton or Columbia. Maybe once, but not now. Heiresses who buy easily forgotten numbers of houses aren’t regular.
There may be only one truly regular guy, a guy regular enough that he doesn’t begin to have the arrogance to believe he speaks for anyone other than himself, in this race. And therefore, of course, he does.
He is not fancy. He is not elite. He is not a single one of the things that Barack Obama has been criticized for. He is from a town even smaller than the one he grew up in. He was secure enough to marry a smart and ambitious girl, a girl he has always thought had great things in her.
A Beverly Hills dinner with 300 best friends at $28,500 apiece is not where you would ever place him, much less ever imagine him to be. The Democrat is the guy in Beverly Hills, as comfortable as he could be, even if he didn’t grow up there. He has the pedigrees. So does his wife. So does his opponent, and his opponent’s wife. So ultimately does a 36-year member of the Senate wherever he is from. It is the Republican guy who is real not rich, hard-working not fancy, so All-Alaskan that he is in fact much more in touch with what he is, which is a whole lot easier for a very lot of the voters who are likely to decide this election.
A funny thing is happening on the way to this election. Actually, I am not laughing. The Palins are out there rolling their eyes at people who actually get protected in all these various banking bailouts, because it certainly seems that ultimately the only people who made out and then got bailed out were the big-money guys. Lehman and Bear Stearns don’t just pop out when you’re thinking about what the modern American dream means today.
Obama is in Beverly Hills, cavorting with Barbra Streisand not because he’d rather do that than snowmobiling, but because in fact he must. But the mere fact that he can is damning, not to mention time-consuming.
So the Republicans are the populists on billionaire bailouts and the Democrats are debating the fundamentals of the economy. Why not blame the Republicans for the deregulation that led to the crisis? Why not point out who has been president for the last eight years, as things have gotten out of control and fallen apart?
First Dude sounds like the kind of guy many girls in this country aimed to marry, and some of them actually did, and even those who didn’t — or aren’t — think well of him anyway. He ‘s a regular guy in a posse of anything but.
Of course, I should officially report, Greta isn’t quite so sure. She’s waiting to find out if he can bowl.
Best-selling author Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her.