This question has occurred to me in recent weeks as I've watched events unfold. Is Obama running a different kind of campaign? Is he truly dispensing with the politics of old?
Issue by issue:
1. Race: Obama's candidacy has been hailed as the post-racial candidacy. Not only did a black man get the nomination, but being black wasn't an issue. That's how far we'd come. Obama would seek to unite the nation, racially speaking.
Reality: Obama has run anything but a post-racial candidacy. He's played the race card on his own party (read: Bill Clinton). He's made constant references to his race. "Republicans will try to scare you, tell you he's got a funny name...did I mention he's black"? and "He doesn't look like the Presidents on the those dollar bills" come to mind (the latter was repeated on at least three separate occasions. Obama, who Gave A Speech About Race Relations, is using the every turn. His wife has joined in on at least two occasions, requesting "more white people" in front of the camera at a campaign event, and complaining about (and recalling publicly) race relations at Harvard.
2. Hope: Obama's message of Hope goes unquestioned. Even McCain and Palin accept that this is a tenant of his campaign. But how is Obama running an optimistic, hopeful campaign? The entire message from Obama is that Americans must do with less. They must eat less, drive less, heat their homes less and expect less. Americans cannot survive without national healthcare and a host of federal programs. Obama's acceptance speech clearly demonstrated this attitude. He mocked the GOP for suggesting that people pull themselves up by their bootstraps, pay for their own healthcare and make ends meet on their own. He doesn't feel (or didn't feel until recently) that we could make it work in Iraq. What is it that Obama is hopeful and optimistic about?
3. Change(TM): The word change has essentially replaced Obama's very name at campaign events. Thousands carried "Change" signs in Denver, obviously unaware of how ridiculous they looked. Beyond the usual "what kind of change?" attacks from his opponents, one must ask: is anything he's proposing that different from the Democratic agenda of the last 40 years? He's called for more socialism. He's used the typical Democratic scare tactics on voters, talking about the GOP's plans to take away their healthcare and social security checks (even if not directly). He's proposed billions if not trillions in new spending. He's not even mentioned earmarks that I recall. He's proposed raising taxes. He wants to talk to insane dictators and play Let's Make A Deal, ala Madeline Albright. He's a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who is running as a centrist. Change? I think not.
4. Open Goverment: This has been a complaint of the Left for some time. Obama's campaign frequently speculated on McCain's VP choice being "the next Dick Cheney." But what about Obama? Obama has refused to answer questions about his background, dismissing them as old school politics. His relationships with J. Wright and Bill Ayers? "They're going to try and make something of my associations and attribute their comments to me!" What, exactly did he do as a community organizer? "I helped steel workers! Change!" Criticize Obama on anything in his background or even a policy he holds? ""You're making race an issue!"" or a 6 minute "nuanced" explanation follows. How can we trust him to do away with the so-called culture of secrecy if we're not allowed to talk about who he IS?
This is by no means an exhaustive list. But whether one supports him or not, I think claiming that he's "different" (or "special" as his wife has said) is a bit dubious in the least.