Disclaimer: The comments presented in this post do not constitute a political endorsement. The comments presented in this post represent no vast expanse of political knowledge. They are mere observations from a marginally politically invested 27 year old.
The rise of Barack Obama as the possibly-soon-to-be Democratic Presidential Candidate has been a fascinating thing to watch. For a 27 year old, it has been an utterly unique political experience.
Never in my voting life has there been a candidate that truly has had a charismatic, emotional appeal for any large group. Some would argue this. W might have had this appeal for the Religious Right, but I would argue that this appeal certainly wasn’t based on Charisma. But who else would there by on the national stage? Howard Dean and his yell in 2004?
But an emotional fervor seems to surround Obama and his rise (would it be cliche to all it meteoric? let’s wait for now) as Presidential nominee frontrunner.
I stumbled onto a good article this week about the “cool factor” of Barack Obama and the almost Messianic status he is given b his followers. At the rally in Austin last night, while a massive crowd waiting in the cold to hear Obama speak, a band played a song entitled, “Obama-lujah.” High school students with their chest painted red and blue in support of Obama yelled, “Obama ’08, Get Fired Up!” And these kids can’t even vote yet. Where else in the political arena would you see such support?
Being as I serve and live in central Texas in a fairly conservative area and Church, I have certainly heard the other side of Obamania.
The most ridiculous I have heard is the oft repeated quote, “A vote for Obama is a vote for Osama.” Equally far from the point of the matter are the emails that have been widely circulating that a) Obama’s Christian faith is an elaborate ruse designed to sneak a man who is actually a fundamentalist (read Militant) Muslim into the Presidency. b) Obama swore his oath into the Senate with his hand on a Koran (now, this really has nothing to do with his ability to lead and govern, but as a lot of the Pro-Obama hype is meant to spin his supporters, this spins his detractors). Then there are the more bland negative comments that he is a candidate of smooth words and little substance.
One friend, who is a staunch Rebublican articulately expressed the “branding” of Obama, and how he has very successfully used his charisma and attraction to “brand” himself. Coca-Cola, Crayola, Obama. She discussed some of the ways in which his campaign has employed current advertising and marketing techniques to create appeal based upon emotion rather than quality of product. She was very compelling. To this point, Slate.com has created a widget where people can make up quotes using Obama’s name (Ex. “Barackupied” – Unable to think about any other politician other than Barack) It is hard to imagine Barack’s success if his name were Tom Smith. Perhaps this is unfair, but I think it’s accurate.
Regardless of what you think of Obama, his rise is fascinating. For a 27 year old, it is incredibly hopeful. I don’t know how to answer the question of How exactly he plans to change Washington, or what exactly I would hope for him to do differently if he were to be voted into office. I am not certain if the dangers of a candidates appeal being based largely on charisma outweigh the positives.
But it is hopeful, that a candidate can speak fluently the language of a generation raised under the polarization of our nation under Clinton and Bush. It is hopeful to have a candidate whose appeal is larger than the sum total weight of his position on issues. It is hopeful to see actual political races that are decided by actual voters which will hopefully ensure that more voices are heard by whomever wins.
Obama was quoted in the Austin American Statesman as saying at a rally in Edinburg,
“what Chávez and King and every other freedom fighter has understood is that there’s a time, there’s a moment in the life of every generation, when that spirit of hope has to come through”
Perhaps this is our time. Perhaps.