Though we may or may not have reached the end of the unexpected upsets and dramatic reversals of the primaries, much less the general election to come, there is no doubt that of all the people who ran for president this year, Obama has run the smartest and most skilled campaign. But of all the things he has done right, none may be more important than the fact that he has told far and away the best story.
This is a topic I addressed in two previous columns, and now that one nominee is chosen and the other will be soon (at least within a few months), it seemed appropriate to revisit the question of the narratives the candidates have built (the first installment is here, and the second is here). Those columns were written in July, but even before that—indeed, as long ago as his explosion into national consciousness at the Democratic convention in 2004—Obama has been telling a story perfectly keyed to the current moment in history.
As Obama tells it, the country is held hostage by a political class that sows partisan and cultural division, making solving problems ever more difficult, while the country yearns for a new day of unity. As the youngest candidate, the only post-boomer candidate, the only bi-racial candidate, and the one candidate with a preternatural ability to obtain the good will of those who disagree with him, he can bring all Americans together and lead us to a future built on hope.
Your own reaction to that story may be a quickening of the heartbeat, or a disgusted ‘”Give me a break.'” But there is no denying that many, many people are willing to sign on to it. And though he is careful not to say it himself, Obama”s story benefits greatly from how often other people say that he is a Man of Destiny. [complete article]
Editor’s Comment — This has been the week where the cult meme really took off among the chattering classes — it’s a topic I hope to write about at greater length soon.
Either we’re now witnessing one of the biggest, fastest growing cults ever seen, as a wave of intemperate enthusiasm is compelling people to suspend their critical judgement. Or, the support Obama is getting — support that comes from vastly more people than attend his rallies — is actually an exercise in critical judgement that commentators prefer to diminish. What’s irrational about imagining that America would be well served by a president who can inspire enthusiasm and who in a divided country and a divided world has the power to bring people together? We’re at a fork in the road. One way leads to tribalism, fractured societies, and ultimately our demise. The other way hinges on the understanding that we share a collective fate.