What Exactly Makes Obama Likable?


That’s the question Ann Althouse asks in a roundabout way. It’s a good question.

I overheard a professor – I won’t say who – telling students they will be meeting representatives of 2 groups, one conservative and one liberal, and that they “would like” the liberals. These particular conservatives, he said, were more effective pursuing their aims – some field of policy that I won’t identify – but the liberals, you will like.

And it got me thinking about this word “like.” What is this liking that we do – or are told to do or assert that we do – these days? You can “like” somebody on Facebook. It’s a social thing. Politically, it’s about liberals. Liberals are likeable. Barack Obama is – it’s drummed into our heads – likeable. He’s so likeable. He got ahead of Hillary Clinton for being so darned likeable, and he famously said “You’re likeable enough” to her on his way to beating her to the nomination.

It occurred to me that liberals have quite effectively insinuated the message into our brains that they are likeable, and, in particular, Barack Obama is likeable. And that doesn’t just mean that any given individual likes him, subjectively. He is likeable, objectively. If you don’t like him, what’s wrong with you? You don’t seem likeable. You’d better like him or no one will like you. All the likeable people are liberal, so you’d better be liberal or no one will like you.

…But this liking of Obama – not loving, liking – what is it? Is it racist? You like him. You really, really like him. Or something’s wrong with you. Do you twinge with anxiety that you might be racist if you don’t like him? Better like him. Why suffer the cruel, needless misunderstanding, the stubborn, self-willed exile from the likeable breast! Everything can be all right. The struggle can be finished. Surrender to the victory over yourself. You like Barack Obama.

While you might not agree with black Americans liking Obama because he’s black or liberals liking Obama because he’s liberal, it’s understandable. But, what exactly beyond that makes him likable?

He’s toweringly arrogant, yet he isn’t a high performer. He incessantly points the finger elsewhere for his many, many failures. He’s stunningly hypocritical. We’re talking about a man worth 10 million dollars who spends more than half a million dollars a year on vacations, yet he attacks wealthy, successful people. Even for a politician, he’s an over-the-top liar and remember all the positive, hopey changey stuff? Now that he’s in a tougher election, he’s turned into Richard Nixon. He’s aloof, nasty, power hungry, self-aggrandizing, he “leads from behind,” his own party’s congressional leaders put him on mute and ignore what he has to say….and that’s without getting into sharper accusations, like saying he’s unpatriotic, socialistic, and doesn’t like white people. All of those things seem to be true; they’re just controversial to say.

Is it that he’s “cool?” Granted, he may be “cool” compared to say Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid, but politicians are in a notoriously uncool profession. Being the “coolest” politician is like being the hippest McDonald’s fry cook. Sure, it’s nice to see a politician who’s uplifting and positive, but that’s the 2008 Obama, not the 2012 Obama. So, what exactly makes Barack Obama likable? People repeating “he’s so likable” over and over? Apparently so.

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