Raise High the Rafters

Sam Anderson – New York

Copyright New York
An excerpt
…More than any other recent politician, Obama is a literary phenomenon. Like America itself, he’s addicted to origin myths. He’s built his political success on the back of compulsive autobiography, the brilliant telling and retelling, and then retelling some more, of his divinely unorthodox life story: the great sweeping legend of Obamerica, the fusion of man and nation, whose manifest destiny extends all the way to the White House. It’s significant that he used his first appearance in the national spotlight, the keynote speech at Kerry’s DNC, to meta-sketch the inspirational origin of that very keynote speech: “Let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely,” he said, and then unleashed, in about 60 seconds, a pithy intergenerational family saga spanning three continents and all the major events of mid-twentieth-century America (Depression, Pearl Harbor, postwar boom)—complete with such unlikely details as goat herding, a tin-roof shack, oil rigs, and Patton’s army marching across Europe. It was like a brilliant movie trailer designed to promote the incalculably awesome feature attraction of his future political career. To deny his candidacy, after that, would be to deny a very powerful narrative logic—the goats, the tin-roof shack, Patton, all of it. Every politician tries to tell stories, of course, to harness the emotional momentum of narrative in the service of an agenda. But few do so as naturally as Obama. All serious candidates have a maniacal ambition—in retrospect, Hillary’s looked unflattering because she didn’t nest it quite deeply enough in a persuasive narrative logic; Barack’s is so embedded in an attractive story that we hardly even notice it…
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