Yet the difference remains: Sanders doesn’t provoke rage like Obama does. While some might point to race, I doubt those made apoplectic by a Black politician would be comparatively forgiving to a septuagenarian Jewish social democrat with a thick Brooklyn accent. Something else is going on, and I think it’s that the right accepts that Sanders just pushes his factional agenda from the socialist left and doesn’t presume to speak from outside of or above the partisan fray.
Obama, by contrast, doesn’t know how to speak in any other rhetorical register than above and beyond the partisan fray. He invariably sounds reasonable, his tone fair-minded, objective. He speaks of the grand sweep of American history, renders Solomonic judgments, and looks down on the disputants on the field of battle, even as his proposals invariably advance the liberal-progressive side of the clashes taking place below him.
That is what drives — and has always driven — the right nuts about Obama. It’s his supposed pretense to elevation, to speaking in dispassionate terms about “us,” about what’s morally righteous and true, and rendering sometimes severe moral judgments of his opponents. He’s a master of using a rhetoric of elevation to ennoble himself and his allies while casting implicit moral aspersions on his political foes, whom he portrays as self-evidently dishonorable, all the while sounding as if he’s merely reciting the indisputable facts of the case. His tone at all times is that of a disapproving parent: You should be ashamed of yourselves.