If Obama’s biography and appeal affect global opinion and therefore foreign policy, the subject should be on the table – as a weapon in pursuit of national self-interest. If we cannot have a debate in a democracy about this impact without fostering xenophobia, ignorance and fear, then democracy cannot work. Which, I suspect, is partly Larison’s point. I’m not as defeatist – and it’s telling that many criticisms of Obama – Carole Simpson’s for example – fall into this trap. ~Andrew Sullivan
There’s not really a question whether the subject should be on the table, but whether, having been raised, it works to the advantage of someone like Obama. We can have the debate, but what I want to stress is that if the debate is framed as it has been those who are perceived to be less nationalistic are going to lose. I do not consider this to be a desirable or healthy development, given my objections to nationalism, but I think it does describe political reality. My point was more that ignorance is an unavoidable part of mass democracy, as is identitarianism, so that a politician whose candidacy is defined to some large degree by connections to the rest of the world and his unusual biography is going to be at a special disadvantage. The larger point is that I don’t think democracy works the way Obama’s supporters assume it does, and that they will view a repudiation of Obama to some extent as evidence of a breakdown or failure of democracy, while I take it to be the natural and logical expression of what democracy is. Perhaps this is a pessimistic view of democracy, but I am a pessimist and someone who sees a great many flaws in mass democracy.