As much as I
hate fear to admit this, I think Obama is going to win it all.
He has only two competitors now, both of whom are more or less reviled by either the general public or their party compatriots, or both.
What does he have going for him? Is it his venerable experience in leading a large and complex organization? [None] Is it his intricate knowledge of the inner workings of the U.S. Government? [3 years as a Senator? He’s only slightly more qualified than I am!] Or is it his awe-inspiring voting record? [either didn’t vote or voted “present” approximately 1 out of 6 times – hardly exemplary].
It’s none of those things. The secret of his success is (will be?) charisma. That’s it.
An eloquent (even “electrifying”) and inspirational speaker. Photo- and telegenic. Likeable. In short, charismatic.
Time Magazine mentioned:
Waiting to hear what Obama has to say – win, lose or tie – has become the most anticipated event of any given primary night. The man’s use of pronouns (never I), of inspirational language and of poetic meter – “WE are the CHANGE that we SEEK” – is unprecedented in recent memory. Yes, Ronald Reagan could give great set-piece speeches on grand occasions, and so could John F. Kennedy, but Obama’s ability to toss one off, different each week, is simply breathtaking.
But there’s a follow-up paragraph that I agree with.
…there was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism – “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” – of the Super Tuesday speech and the recent turn of the Obama campaign. “This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different. It’s different not because of me. It’s different because of you.” That is not just maddeningly vague but also disingenuous: the campaign is entirely about Obama and his ability to inspire. Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause – other than an amorphous desire for change … [t]he Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.
As Ian Rock noted:
Now, let me share something that scares me about you [Obama supporters]. I have been listening to many of your reasons for supporting Obama. I have watched a good number of interviews on CNN, MSNBC and YouTube to better understand why you think Obama will be great president in 2008, and I keep hearing things like:
“It’s just the way he lights up a room”
“We haven’t seen a candidate this charismatic since JFK.”
“It’s just hard to be objective with this guy”
Let me add here the other main reason I’ve heard for people supporting Obama – “I just don’t want another Clinton in the White House”, or in the same vein “Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton just looks bad”.
This is a quote from the same article, which is almost exactly what I said to my family a few weeks ago.
History shows that it was exactly this kind of thinking which allowed charismatic leaders like Adolf Hitler to take power. Extreme? For sure. But, it is a relevant comparison when looking at large groups of people being swayed to act for all the wrong reasons.
And another, which echoes a point I raised over beer with a few friends.
Pretend that Barack Obama is white. Imagine a white, mostly inexperienced junior senator from Illinois with the exact same ideas and speeches.
Does it have the same effect? Imagine a lanky white candidate with the exact same rhetoric and the exact same calls for “change.” Is the image as powerful? Does he seem as attractive to you? Are you even listening?
These issues are pointedly missing (overlooked, or just missed) by all of the Obama supporters I’ve dealt with.
So, let me try for a moment to think like a politician, though I will allow that given the inherent contradiction, this may be an exercise in futility.
Let’s say I’m a Republican Conservative (a stretch) who doesn’t want McCain for whatever reason – for example, the most recent reason I heard was that he isn’t conservative enough…so we can suffer through 4-8 years of Obama to get the White House back later. What a juvenile attitude – punish Senator McCain because he sullies the moniker “Conservative”, and thereby brings disrepute to the title of Republican. Well, given the growing penchant among Americans to support a “Nanny State”, isn’t it quite possible that after 8 years of a a populist Democrat in office that the populace will be even more enamored with a Democratic regime? The Devil you know is better than the one you don’t right? Plus, let’s say that McCain does take office, and his rather liberal Democrat-leaning tendencies backfire – would that not help propel a true conservative to office next time?
In short, a McCain loss is a greater risk to the Republican Party (and, in my opinion, to the U.S.) than a McCain win.
Now, what if Obama wins? As America’s first non-white President, there would be a honeymoon period for him that is unprecedented. Anything he promotes will get passed. I can imagine a resulting big government that would astonish Orwell. His Charisma will carry proposals into law that the rest of us will have to bear the burden of for generations – because once an entitlement program is instituted, it’s exceedingly difficult even to reform, let alone repeal.
But, as I said when I started this post, I’m afraid that experience, ability, and logic will have little to do with the results of this election year. Unless Obama manages somehow to lose his charismatic appeal, his
followers worshipers are going to get him into the White House.
Kyle Ann-Shiver writes:
Whenever I watch Barack Obama, listen to his eloquent but nonspecific oratory, and see the near-swooning young people who invariably follow him wherever he goes, I cannot help but think of the pied piper and wonder toward what destination he is marching our youth. Obama is having this pied-piper effect not only on kids, but also on a large swath of Democrat and not a few independents and Republican voters, too.
…consider these numbers on recent Google searches using only Obama’s name plus one other word:
- Obama + messianic 75,200
- Obama + savior 226,000
- Obama + prophet 312,000
- Obama + Christ 504,000
- Obama + change 4,540,000
A number of internet postings indicate that a great many see Obama in not only political terms, but also wrapped in the untarnished cloak of some vague spiritual-awakening.
As the Opium-for-the-Masses candidate for the all-too-willing-to-be-sedated public, Obama appears to be unbeatable. I can only hope that people will start to engage their intellects over their emotions and listen to what Obama is NOT saying. One must remember:
A lust for transformation [CHANGE] is a common feature of revolutionaries, and when they succeed in grabbing power, the results usually are brutal.