In a somewhat freudian and embarrassing manner, Jonathan Chait explains why he believes the Romney campaign’s “you didn’t build that” attack is working.
The key thing is that Obama is angry, and he’s talking not in his normal voice but in a “black dialect.” This strikes at the core of Obama’s entire political identity: a soft-spoken, reasonable African-American with a Kansas accent. From the moment he stepped onto the national stage, Obama’s deepest political fear was being seen as a “traditional” black politician, one who was demanding redistribution from white America on behalf of his fellow African-Americans.
I wouldn’t have predicted the first very serious person to say the president looks like an angry black man would be a supposed liberal, but I suppose we’ve just about seen it all over the course of this presidency.
There is little to no evidence that Romney’s “you didn’t build that” attack is actually working, by the way, but the idea that it is has now become accepted beltway wisdom.
To witness an example of this phenomenon, observe this recent piece from the Christian Science Monitor titled “Obama widens his lead in polls. So why does it feel like he’s in trouble?”
And to be sure that Chait’s original words weren’t misinterpreted, he issued a clarification hours later and said the same thing.
The trouble with the Obama clip is that it catches him in a moment, as he occasionally does, when he alters his normal cadence to more of a black-sounding inflection, and takes an unusually angry tone, and seems to be telling middle-class Americans they don’t deserve what they have.
When I watch a clip of the president, even one deceptively edited by the Romney campaign, I do not see an angry black man. I do not hear a “black dialect.” I don’t even hear anger. All I hear are words distorted to make it seem as though the president is attacking success.
Chait is suggesting the Romney campaign chose to flog the president’s “you didn’t build that” speech to make it seem as though the president is an angry black man, but I saw no inference of that until Chait himself referenced the president’s use of a “black dialect.”
What is a black dialect anyway? According to Chait’s own description, a black dialect seems to be the language of black people who, as you know, are always angry by default!
And what does “black-sounding” mean? I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here by saying that Chait is necessarily associating sounding angry with sounding black.
I sound angry quite frequently, especially after I stop laughing and realize that you’re very serious, but I’m fairly certain that doesn’t mean I sound black.
There are certain things you simply shouldn’t publish if you feel they are open to this much interpretation. And if saying the president is speaking in a “black-sounding” tone or that he appears to be using an ‘angry, black dialect’ doesn’t give you pause, you should probably spend more time on self-examination.