He has passed no significant legislation, is head of no official movement, has never run a business and, until he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, barely anyone had ever heard of him.
And yet, Barack Obama appears poised to be the Democrats’ standard bearer, with a following that now consistently fills basketball arenas, in state after state, with 20,000 supporters who hang on his every word (or sneeze), cheer his pronouncements, and regularly swoon into faints.
What can possibly explain the cult-like following surrounding this silver-tongued, political neophyte? There must be something more.
That “more” is a deep hunger among the left for someone who can restore, not the country, but the battered faith liberals have in themselves.
The last four decades have not been kind to the left. A thumbnail timeline elucidates this:
Riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention showing a party in total disarray; the Lion of Liberalism, Senator Ted Kennedy, trying to save his political life instead of Mary Jo Kopechne’s at Chappaquiddick; the landslide defeat of George McGovern in 1972; and the disaster that was known as the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1976-1980).
In the 80s, Ronald Reagan successfully won the Cold War without a shot being fired, while Democrats were left holding their “No Nukes” placards, and Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis were overwhelmingly defeated in the elections of 1984 and 1988, respectively.
Although, Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992 was the last time the left pumped its collective fist in the air, his presidency was irrevocably damaged by numerous sex scandals, the last of which ended in impeachment. Add in the debacle of “Hillarycare” and it’s no wonder that the left considered the Clinton presidency a great let down.
In the 2000s, the defeats continued with the election of the supposedly “stupid” or “evil” (take your pick) George W. Bush in 2000. There was the defeat of Senate Majority Leader, Tom Daschle in 2002 (coupled with the House and Senate falling to the Republicans) and 2004 brought the defeat of John Kerry (a candidate Democrats never liked) again to Bush.
All these defeats – along with the tragic deaths of liberal icons over the years like Bobby Kennedy and Paul Wellstone – make obvious why the last four decades have eroded the psyche of those on the left.
And then came Obama who like a savior from nowhere has made liberals feel good about who they are again – because feeling good is what mostly defines them.
This fall, the Republican candidate will wage a standard campaign against Obama, highlighting the truly vast differences on policy between them. But most Obama supporters don’t care about those differences. The enthusiasm they have for The Candidate – in light of his tissue-paper-thin résumé and lack of substantive new ideas – confirms that the only thing they truly care about is his unparalleled ability to restore their long-dormant good feeling about being liberal again.
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