Perhaps it’s only because I haven’t read any Terry Pratchett for some months that it took so long to strike me, but I’ve just noticed the striking resemblances between Carrot Ironfoundersson and Barack Obama. Both are charismatic and give the impression that they ‘understand’ people, even their supposed enemies, better than these people understand themselves (even David Brooks, hardly an Obama supporter, acknowledges this). Both enjoyed quick rises through their respective professions. Both work hard to ‘unite’ people amidst racial (in the case of Carrot, inter-species) tensions. Both attempt to respect their opponents’ positions where other partisans would make straightforward demonizations (again, Brooks testifies to this). Both give off an appearance of such sincere optimism that most people suspect that it’s just a facade. The Wikipedia article describes Carrot as often taking time “to see all sides of a story before getting involved wholeheartedly”. Well, Cass Sunstein is simply one of many who have described Obama as doing the same.
There are a few other parallels that have less to do with personality, but perhaps are all the more suggestive for that. The most obvious is that of possible national leadership: Carrot is the unacknowledged heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork. A less obvious point, but one that is important to the identities of both Obama and Carrot, is the complex and somewhat mixed racial (in Carrot’s case, multi-species) roots of both. Carrot is biologically human but was brought up as an orphan by dwarfs. Culturally, he identifies with dwarfs, and is able to defuse tensions involving Ankh-Morpork dwarfs for this reason (the ‘uniter’ theme creeps back again).
Part of the awe that perhaps even people ‘outside’ the Obama cult have for Obama is that they cannot believe that Obama could really be what he professes to be and that a simple naive message of the kind he is spreading could actually work. This “Is this guy for real?” sentiment is also often directed at Carrot as he goes about his business in Ankh-Morpork. Well, Carrot’s way did work. If Obama’s does as well, then chalk one up to the sophistication of Discworld characters and settings — and to Pterry‘s genius.