Deconstructing Rick Santorum’s Argument that Obama is Detatched from American Experience06.29.10
“Obama is detached from the American experience. He just doesn’t identify with the average American because of his own background. Indonesia and Hawaii. His view is from the viewpoint of academics and the halls of the Ivy league schools that he went to and it’s not a love of this country and an understanding of the basic values and wants and desires of its people. And as a result of that, he doesn’t connect with people at that level.”
His argument: Obama is detached from the American experience, which prevents him from connecting with people at that level.
- Obama’s background of living in Indonesia and Hawaii. Despite Indonesian Americans only comprising about .02% of the US Population (as of the 2000 census), it doesn’t necessarily mean that Americans who live in that country for a period of time, or those who emigrate to America, are less knowledgeable on the American experience. One could argue that part of the American experience is being able to see the world and learn other cultures first-hand. Perhaps Mr. Santorum is unaware that Hawaii is actually our 50th state and part of the union. Sure, it’s way out there in the Pacific, but to say that living there makes your experiences less American than the average American sure is a slap in the face to the nearly 1.3 million citizens that call Hawaii home. Maybe he has Hawaii confused with Puerto Rico.
- Obama’s viewpoint of academics. Since when is it un-American to value an education?
- Obama’s time at an Ivy League school. See previous rebuttal.
Therefore, he comes to this conclusion:
Ivy League schools and academics are in direct opposition to loving America and understanding the basic values and wants and desires of its people.
By this line of thought, even Santorum himself falls into this group into which he lumps Obama: he attended Penn State University for both undergrad and his law degree. Not quite Ivy League, but a highly esteemed public school nonetheless, and one that surely falls into the realm of academics. How does he reconcile the fact that he apparently loves America and understands the basic values of its people despite also coming from academia himself? Also – the choice of saying “its people” implies that Obama isn’t even a citizen, that he’s looking in from the outside at America, of which he’s not a part. Subtle, yet rather inflammatory in its suggestion.
This argument seems to be another way for Santorum to portray Obama as an elitist, that he doesn’t understand the common American. It’s an offensive argument to both Obama and to whomever passes off as “common Americans” these days. First to Obama because it casts him aside as some outsider, an out-of-touch American — or worse, un-American. But the real offense is how he patronizes everyday Americans as not being able to relate to Obama because he’s highly educated. As if the average citizen is an uneducated, ignorant person who finds intelligence to be suspicious and unappealing, and considers school to be against his or her core beliefs.
Nothing quite like someone with a relatively similar education background telling people that education is not for the common American and they should be skeptical of people with Ivy League degrees, but never mind my own graduate degree in law from this nationally ranked university.