January 22, 2008

Identity Is (Not) Destiny

Obama may get lost in the confusion of identity and identification: his attraction for so many Americans is tied up in his identity (in the pervasive US identity politics sense) and the way he and his identity seem to redeem American racism and history, and the way he comes off as able to wear that identity lightly and unthreateningly. But identity's a fickle thing (largely because it's imposed and / or chosen, not especially inherent), and at best a double-edged sword, and once you go beyond the irritating vagueness of his policy messages, it sometimes seems that all you've got is symbolism, projection, and voter identification with a certain shifting transcendent identity (raceless, American). So many who share Obama's (underplayed) identity don't identify much with him; and those who identify strongly with him don't typically share his imposed identity.

All of which doesn't seem likely to go up well against the practiced policy-mongering and well-honed (primary) colour-coded identities of the rest of the field….

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