When a supporter told Adlai Stevenson, the losing Democratic presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956, that thinking people supported him, Stevenson said, "Yes, but I need to win a majority." When another supporter told Stevenson, "You educated the people through your campaign," Stevenson replied, "But a lot of people flunked the course." Michael Barone, in "Our Country: The Shaping of America From Roosevelt to Reagan," wrote: "It is unthinkable that Roosevelt would ever have said those things or that such thoughts ever would have crossed his mind." Barone added: "Stevenson was the first leading Democratic politician to become a critic rather than a celebrator of middle-class American culture -- the prototype of the liberal Democrat who would judge ordinary Americans by an abstract standard and find them wanting."While in undergrad, I took a 20th century history course, and I remember that when we covered the 1952 and 1956 elections the professor would say: "Well, Stevenson was an incredible intellect, and a lot of his ideas went over the heads of the American public." I remember raising my hand and saying, "Umm...isn't it possible that they understood his ideas, but just didn't like them?"
Stevenson, like Obama, energized young, educated professionals for whom, Barone wrote, "what was attractive was not his platform but his attitude." They sought from Stevenson "not so much changes in public policy as validation of their own cultural stance." They especially rejected "American exceptionalism, the notion that the United States was specially good and decent," rather than -- in Michelle Obama's words -- "just downright mean."
That seems to be the line whenever a Democrat loses: "They were just too smart for those rubes out there in flyover country". Both Al Gore and John Kerry lost their elections because "they couldn't speak in sound bites" or "their ideas were too nuanced and sophisticated to be understood by Middle America." I tended to think it was because they came off as aloof, arrogant, preening jackasses. But hey, what do I know. I'm just bitter young man who clings to guns and religion because I'm not getting paid enough.
Let's hope that Sen. Obama's documented arrogance catches up with him, just like Adlai's did.