Q: This political race is unique in a number of ways; the first black man has a very real chance of becoming the president of the United States, the possibility that a woman may end up in the White House, truly history in the making.
However, having been on this spinning rock for a few presidential elections, I can honestly say I have never seen the cult phenomenon that is currently bestowed upon Senator Obama. The level of blind faith and devotion is scary; leave aside the potential of suffering physical damage.
There are fanatics in every stripe. I personally know Bushheads who think he's God's gift and he could do no wrong, even after 8 long years. And I certainly have come across some Obamaniacs who worship the dirt he spits on.
But by and large I think people are still sane. They can see that Obama is not perfect, and that he's still an inexperienced Senator from IL with a humble beginning.
Yet despite whether you agree with or like his politics, I think both candidates have great background stories and inspiring histories. McCain was a POW. Obama grew up without a father.
The thing people are jazzed up about Obama is that he inspired people. He was practically an unknown four years ago when he burst into the political scene, and the train hasn't stopped since then. His success and rise -- at the primary and potentially in November -- are phenomenal not only because he's the first African-American who's gone this far, but also because he did it despite everything pit against him: his childhood, his rebellious adolescence (drug use and all), his politics (he not always sides with his party or Washington), and racism. He did it all on his own, and not because he had some magical sugar daddy behind the curtain. I think that's what inspired people, especially those who are underprivileged and struggling, to rise to the occasion and do something.
He also ran a great campaign; it's not just some dumb luck. He ran a very grassroot campaign with a lot of local groups and parties and MySpace, etc. and he energized the young people. Like JFK and Clinton, his youth and idealism play a great part in his success, especially with the young "electronic media" generation. The viral nature of the Internet -- blogs, MySpace, text messaging, etc. -- helped propel him to that stratosphere.
It's not to say he's universally adored though. Even within his own party he had to split it with Hillary Clinton. We'll see how well he will do in the next two months. But I doubt he would have the kind of landslide effect as Reagan and Clinton did.
I think he's also at the right junction in time -- as someone said, he's on the right side of history. Times are tough and people want to be inspired again. People yearn for the time of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton -- both won their respective election in a landslide -- when one person can mean all that difference. Were Reagan or Clinton perfect? Were they the BEST men for the job at the time or ever? But somehow that's not relevant -- what was relevant was that they symbolized something, and America and Americans were better for it because people had hopes and were inspired to do something. After 8 years of complacency and fear, I think Americans are ready for this "change" again. So what if Obama is not perfect, and so what if he may not be the best man for the job? Compared to McCain, Obama's success inspires people, and everyone loves a fairytale story that ends with "happily ever after."
Because, dammit, that could happen to me, too, if I work hard enough.