Monday, January 7, 2008

What's so great about Obama?

I mean this sincerely. I've seen students, friends, and loved ones get all weepy about wanting to vote for him. Even Ari Kelman, whom I count on for a healthy dose of cynicism, had this to say about the post Iowa speeches:
"John Edwards, when he spoke, made me proud to be a Democrat; Obama made me proud to be an American."
As Iowa showed, all this swooning actually affects voting behavior - Obama is pulling people into the political process.

But seriously, what is it? Is it that vague sort of charisma that JFK had? I'm rather fond of most of JFK's policy stances, but, honestly, he got elected in part because a lot of young people looked at him and said, "Gee, wouldn't it be swell if he were president?" I get a lot of that same sense from Obama's supporters.

And I suppose race figures in here somewhere. Do white liberals just really want to see a black man as president because of all that would mean? And here's one who just might be electable?

I mean no criticism of him; I just don't fully get the allure. He comes off quite competent and articulate, but then so do Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. And I feel like I know less about him and what he would do as president than I do about Clinton and Edwards at this point, despite dozens of debates and speeches.

What is it?

13 comments:

SAM said...

I don't think articulate is sufficient to describe his particular ability in speaking. What really impresses is how he can discuss policy genuinely, without sounding like a politician or a soundbite. People listen to him openly, without the usual filter to screen out or discount political discussion.

Ari said...

"He comes off quite competent and articulate"

Don't forget clean. Seriously, I think charisma can't be quantified. Also, he's a potentially transformative candidate. I just had one of my closestn friends and favorite colleagues in my office talking about the same thing. What we came up with is that he seems to have the potential not just to win but to make this a better country. And finally, race is a big deal. It is, after all, the nation's original sin. Who doesn't want a real conversation on the subject, and, possibly, some measure of absolution?

Ari said...

Also, who doesn't want to know how to spell "closest"? I mean, the final "N" is nice and everything. But Ns, even in bulk, are pricey.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sam. He's articulate and charismatic, sure, but I'd add that he resonates a kind of calm, an assuredness that doesn't have an edge like his competitors. I don't share a lot of hope, though, with Ari that he's going to foster a 'real conversation' about race. He's a perfect 'tween on race: right between the credibility of a civil rights worker (which he certainly is) and the liberal discomfort with making people feel too guilty about the original sin. And that kind of 'conversation' makes whites feel good about liking him. (Nancy)

Enik said...

Isn't this potentially problematic? If he were elected, couldn't conservatives just point to him and say "What race problem?"

Anonymous said...

But if Hillary were elected, the same crowd could say "What gender gap?" It'll only be problematic to the ignoramus types . . . you know, those who already say "What race problem? I'm colorblind!"

I'm a troll, I admit it. I'm here because I can't sleep; I'm one of those criers initially mentioned. By now, I've watched Obama's Iowa victory speech 4 times and I want to keep watching it. The hope he speaks of ripples through me like an electric shock--not quite strong enough to be painful, just strong enough to create a pleasant hum. I dare say that I love the man. I've been on board since the beginning, but admit that his victory and speech had a powerful effect on me. I think we cry and get all emotional because we need change so badly and he's so damned good at making us believe it's just around the corner. I'm too young to know what JFK was *really* like, though I've never ever felt *this way* about a politician before. He does genuine so well, and I really hope the reason he's able to pull it off is because it's really true. If he becomes the next President, my flag will finally come out of its shameful hiding spot (the broom closet) and fly every day.

He's had me crying for hours just today. Seriously, something is *wrong* with me. If this "Obama fever" is really spreading across the land, it doesn't seem that any amount of cheap shots by fellow Democrats or Republicans will be able to stop it. Hope is too powerful of a force to kill--especially since we've been so deprived of it for so long.

In case none of you have looked around online, I'll conclude my hypnotic-swooning session by mentioning that people across the globe are crying with us, applauding Iowa, and getting very excited about our agent of change. Someone claimed that "The world can't be healthy if America is sick" (possibly someone from Croatia), and went on and on--as MANY other international commenters have--about how great Obama is, and how his powerful message of change and hope is already winning us back allies and respect. He is their chance, too. Anyone especially interested in that phenomenon can find a good sample of comments here:

http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/samgrahamfelsen/CxBX

Some of them speak more enthusiastically than even myself.

lidzville said...

Electing someone with an international background, particularly someone who can speak intelligently about Islam and Africa, seems very important right now. That may not show up in the polls, but the "vague charisma" you note strikes me as being a way of saying "the person who most represents the opposite of Bush."

Anonymous said...

While everyone's talking about how great a speaker he is and how great it'd be for him to get in because of his nationality, no one has said much about his views and goals other then some minor Christian details which everyone should have. Being president is more then just spitting out good BS all the time so let me hear something about the specific ways he's going to "change" the US. I don't mean to offend anyone I just want to hear something concrete about him being president other then he can speak well. What separates him from anyone else?

Anonymous said...

All of these comments are still vague. why are his policies better than McCain's, is he more "competent and articulate" than McCain, and doesn't exprerience in political policies and warfare (something McCain has) matter in electing a President? The answer to the question is no, there is nothing great about Obama; he is equal at best. He was elected because he is black, and America wants a black President because it's politically correct.

Seth said...

He got elected because he's black? Thanks for explaining this great mystery. Oh, why didn't those silly black people run for president years ago, since they could have gotten into the White House so easily? That must be the reason we've had so few black senators and governors and no black presidents all these years -- they just didn't try.

Vishweshwar Jatain said...

I don't think that 'they' didn't try... it's just that then was not the time. Obama was extremely well positioned with the current social environment in America... he happened to be in the right place at the right time. Time will tell as to how the road goes from all these hope 'talks', talks are talks and a man is only as good as his destiny...

Anonymous said...

What's so great about Obama? He wants abortion to take place for your daughter so that she can get laid any time. He wants gay marraige, so that your children can see some weirdos in the world getting married, which truly isn't marriage in anyway. He wants to raise welfare and foodstamp benefits so that those people who don't work because they are too lazy, they can recieve free foods and money and do nothing at all. That's why Obama is so great.

Anonymous said...

I am suprised a black man wanted a job in the first place. Hmmm,I guess we can't blame Pres. bush anymore.