The "fist-bump" between Barack Obama and his wife Michelle in St. Paul the other night has already become a semi-iconic detail of an iconic moment—the first black presidential candidate sharing a funny and seemingly genuine moment of affection with his wife. Of course once the glow of "hooray us! we finally made it up to the blacks!" wears off among the pundit class, expect to hear about it again. The fist-bump, we mean—or, as the New York Times might refer to it, the "closed-fist high-fives." You will probably hear that it is a Black Gesture. Some particularly bent people will say even more confused things. Because these people are old and rich and out of touch. Much like the (admittedly AWESOME) time Obama "brushed his shoulders off," it was a simple moment that helped demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, Obama is "in touch" with Real Americans. Allow us to explain!
The standard cultural arbiter of what Real Americans do and what they are like is someone like Chris Matthews. He's a loud, brash Irish Catholic guy, getting up there in age, with an admittedly solid blue-collar history (former DC cop!) who's been in a bubble of wealth and privilege just long enough to make him utterly deluded about the people in this country who live outside the wealthiest enclaves of the Eastern Seaboard. Over the last decade or so, he's come to decide that Real Americans are, basically, Nixon's "silent majority"—aging white men of modest means. Sadly he barely even understands what these modern-day Angry White Men are like, so he's extrapolating from his own time in their circle, decades ago. This is why he is pretty sure he knows that Real Americans drink like this, and hey, no one plays pool anymore!
But let's look at Obama's famous "body man," Reggie Love. The kid introduced the candidate to Jay-Z, popularizer of the shoulder-brushing phenomenon. He's a black kid, from North Carolina. The standard analysis would be that a kid like this will TERRIFY THE VOTERS. But the guy's a former athlete who went to Duke on scholarship. At Duke, he partied with white frat kids—all of whom almost certainly listen, maybe exclusively, to hip hop and R&B.
These are kids (meaning "18-35-year-olds across the entire nation), white and black, for whom respect knuckles are second nature. And Obama's bump and shoulder-brush, probably simply because he's such a natural actor, don't reek of pandering. Pandering is when, say, Representative Jack Kingston inexplicably and incorrectly appropriated "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp."
Obama's acting cool, but relatably cool. Like a Cool Uncle! He's younger and hipper than dad, but still serious and Grown Up. And this is probably his best defense against crazy old Grampa McCain.
(And lest anyone accuse us hero-worship, we did think it was totally cool when Hillary downed that boilermaker. If the old rumor of her drinking contest with McCain is true, that is ALSO cool. But absolutely nothing else about her is cool, in any way.)