Politicking (Or, the Obama Factor)

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I have no desire to discuss the nuts and bolts of the Presidential Race on this site- several other pundits and bloggers are currently busy covering every tiny detail they can find and then opining about it at length.

What I do want to explore, however, is the Obama Factor in the current nomination process- specifically how candidates who increase enthusiasm in the electorate can do surprisingly well.

I don’t know if Obama will win the nomination or not, but he has shown how inspiring voters for something different can turn what pundits were calling a landslide four months ago for Clinton into an all out dogfight.  Look at it this way- Hillary is the former first lady of a President that many modern day Democrats consider the standard bearer of their party.  Name recognition is off the charts- the only other Democrat that could rely on such an advantage in the primary race is Al Gore, and he decided not to run.

Enter Barack Obama, a junior senator from Illinois who dared to enter the race against Clinton, who many considered to already be the presumptive nominee.  If I remember correctly, the thought was that the Republicans were in disarray (I think they had about 7 candidates at one stretch) and that Clinton would wrap up the nomination early, giving her ample time to consolidate her base…

Pundits are so wrong sometimes it hurts.

Pundits missed the almost magical effect that Obama has on a crowd- the “X factor” that is so hard to define but so easy to see when it’s there.  Not only do people believe in what he’s saying, but it’s obvious that he believes it as well.  This is a rare currency in our culture, much less in American politics.

Can you imagine any other Senator of his age and experience even attempting a run at the Presidency?  He was sworn into the United States Senate on January 4, 2005– just over 37 months ago.  He hasn’t even finished his first term.  I say this not to claim that he’s inept (that’s for America to decide) but simply to point out that his charisma is basically the only thing propelling him to the nomination.  Without his magnetic charm, he’s Bob Menendez with an extra year’s worth of experience.   

I think most Americans have learned to accept the fact that all politicians become evil once they take office.  A few deals here, a few handshakes there, and America is worse off from the experience and some giant company gets richer.  A precious few, however, rise above the fray of moral shading and actually take a stand- in the last few generations, Kennedy and Reagan spring to mind.  I’m not saying that Obama is the next Kennedy or Reagan, but it’s evident that his success is based largely on his ability to reach out and inspire enthusiasm for his cause.  This is why he does so well among independents- his appeal transcends party lines. 

There is at least a chance that Obama will not fall prey to the caustic atmosphere that pervades Washington- and being used to candidates who appear to offer no chance of change, his candidacy has quickly gained equality with that of Clinton.

I view Obama’s rise not so much as a ratification of him as a human being, but as a sign that America is desperate for something.  His ascendancy is no different from that of the faith healer who can’t cure or the boogey man who never shows up- it is the belief in such a thing that creates its power and magic.  The question, then, is this- will Obama satiate the American political appetite with his message of hope, or is he just the weekly special?       

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One Response

  1. If McCain and Obama are my choices-I will vote Obama because at least he admits killing babies is fun. My daddy didn’t even know McCain was pro-choice-talk about pulling the wool!

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