Tuesday, February 12, 2008

About that Obama personality cult

A lot of folks are cynical and put off by what is increasingly being referred to as a cult of personality around Barack Obama. I understand that reticence. But I wonder: isn’t this a natural byproduct of having a potentially transformational candidate at a time when the country desperately needs it? That’s what Obama’s running on. Whether he can deliver this transformation or not is another question. But when was the last time we had this much excitement about a presidential candidate? (My three year old even loves his name.)

Anyhow, I’m not concerned about the euphoria around Obama. He’s just a man, but maybe he has the chance to do something different and special. Perhaps that’s na├»ve, but permit a man some hope. We just won’t know until he’s sitting in the Oval Office.

I can understand the Clinton camp’s exasperation at his relative lack of experience but check out some of the important legislation he’s sponsored (often bipartisan bills). And his experience at the state level and in community organizing is relevant and positive. And as an online acquaintance put it he’s smart, thoughtful, and comes across as a human being.

As for the experience that really matters in the general election campaign, Clinton knows what it means to fend off mean-spirited political mud from the ├╝berconservatives and emerge victorious. She really is battle tested. But that’s not going to be enough to get her the nomination.

I have a theory about why Obama’s message is resonating in Middle America, while Hillary seems to be winning the big traditionally blue states like New York, California, and Massachusetts. We here in red state America know how vilified Hillary Clinton is. We know that this emotional response isn’t fair and doesn’t make logical sense, but there it is. I’m not sure that the people in the blue states get that. I don’t even think the frail Democratic Party down in Austin gets it.

A lot of people who would consider voting for a Democrat (and there are lots of these folks) will not consider putting another Clinton in office. We are ready for a change, a clean break. No Bushes or Clintons in the White House for a while. It’s been a dismal time. People think the country is on the wrong track and they’re ready to feel good about America again. Obama gives voice to that hope. That’s what this movement is about.

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