Obama is not like us. Or so says Sarah Palin all across the country. He sees things different than us real Americans, she claims. He is one of those other people. Indeed fear of the "other" people has had a powerful influence on national behavior throughout history. Usually the "other" is marked by language, racial, ethnic, cultural, or religious differences. The other is a source of fear among the majority. This fear then becomes the source of irrational action among otherwise well meaning people. Jews have been targets for twenty centuries or more. It was Hitler’s search for a "final solution" to the Jewish problem that formed the foundation for the Holocaust.
In our own United States, fear of the other brought restrictive laws, as well as private action, discriminating against Jews, Blacks ,and Catholics. Members of these groups were much feared, especially in the South. At one time laws were enacted forbidding anyone to teach a person of color to read. Once they get educated they will be a real threat to the rest of us, it was feared. Current "others" such as Gypsies in Italy, Muslims in France and Polish in Great Britain are a source of much fear in those countries.
From my perspective, Governor Palin has tapped into a long standing source of fear when she labels Barack Obama as not like us. He is one of those others who are ever a point of anxiety to the rest of us. How effective will instilling fear of the "other" be as a campaign strategy? It has worked well throughout history and has already had an influence on the thinking of many people. It remains to be seen if fear will be a determining factor in the final outcome of the election.