Politics

Obama Like JFK

Fred Kaplan, in his article “Forget FDR and Lincoln; Obama Is Most Like JFK” for Slate, argues that “the Kennedy-Obama parallels are, in fact, deeper than they might seem.” Within, he cites — you guessed it — Mailer’s “Superman Comes to the Supermarket”:

In the vapid Eisenhower years, he went on, the “life of politics and the life of myth had diverged too far.” Americans needed “a hero central to his time,” a leader who could capture their “secret imagination” and re-engage “the myth of the nation” with its “pioneer lust for the unexpected and incalculable.” Kennedy was that hero, the “matinee idol” in an age of movie-star heroes who spoke of a “New Frontier” of “unknown opportunities and perils.”
Mailer recognized that the country was divided, almost evenly. Not everyone wanted this kind of hero. Many wanted to step back from this frontier, even to indulge in a countermyth of simpler times, small towns, and provincial values, when categories were stark and choices seemed clear. It was a clash of myths that would define much of American politics for decades to come—not least in our own recent election—and the question Mailer posed was whether a majority of voters would choose the man of glamour and mystery who would intensify the myth of frontiers or the odorless company man who would bask in terrain complacently occupied.

The LATimes also comments about Obama’s similarities with JFK, but invites us to keep our expectations of the new president realistic. You can read “Superman” in Esquire online.