But it did get me to thinking: In the same vein that people once called Bill Clinton our first Black President, could one say that Barack Obama was our first Jewish President?
In introducing that argument with respect to Bill Clinton, Toni Morrison argued as follows:
After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas. And when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President’s body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and body-searched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke? The message was clear: “No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and—who knows?—maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us.Morrison's argument mixed elements of Clinton's background, his personal style, and the particular way he was targeted and maltreated by his opponents. I think a similar connection can be made between Obama and the Jews.
I noted before he was even elected that Obama seemed to "get", in his bones, the Jewish connection to Zionism in a way that is rare to see among non-Jews. In terms of background, Obama initially rose to prominence through scholastic excellence, most prominently embodied when he was elected President of the Harvard Law Review. His cerebral style -- concerned with argument and persuasion, believing that we can reason our way through problems while being a bit uncomfortable with the back-slapping, good-ol'-boys club mentality of Washington politics -- seems quintessentially Jewish. In terms of how he handles himself, in terms of what he values, and in terms of how he approaches politics, Barack Obama could very easily pass for a Jew.
And then there are the conspiracy theories. Obama's political career has been beset by a series of ever-more ridiculous conspiracy theories. Birtherism is just the tip of the iceberg. We saw Obama launching Jade Helm as a prelude to taking over Texas, Obama seeking to become UN Secretary General in order to take over the world, and of course Obama revealing himself to be the Antichrist and taking over all of human existence. I could go on more or less indefinitely.
This particular form of oppression is very much Jewish in character. A few years ago, I joked that if you ever get "conspiracy theories" as a pub trivia category, you can save time by just putting down "Jews" for every answer -- odds are that, whatever the theory, somebody has pinned it on us. The conspiracy theory may well be the central organizing feature of anti-Semitism, and it may well also be the central distinctive component of the opposition to the Obama presidency -- managing to ramp up even the fevered "Clintons had Vince Foster murdered" pitch that prevailed at the end of the prior Democratic administration. On this front, Barack Obama -- presumed to be at the forefront of every domestic and global calamity, secretly plotting with shadowy cabals and foreign enemies to bring us into ruin -- was very much the first Jew in office
Finally, there's the fact that -- while Obama is overwhelmingly popular among most Jews -- about 25% loudly declare the man utterly detestable. Which is pretty Jewish in its own right, come to think of it.
As the days of the Obama presidency come to a close, I grow ever more impressed by all he accomplished in office, and proud that my community stood firmly and decisively beside him in two successful elections. One day, hopefully in my lifetime, we will have an actual Jewish President, just as we eventually got an actual Black President and how we'll soon (knock on wood) have an actual female President. But until that day, we could do far, far worse than to identify ourselves with the Obama legacy.