October 3, 2008
I think I have finally come to understand the reason Barack Obama appeals to many of his devoted followers despite his lack of accomplishment. The world of romance, not politics, must be our guide.
Reading the most recent polls, I've been rather bewildered by the enthusiasm American voters have for a Barack Obama presidency. There's so much about him that seems antithetical to holding the preeminent job in America.
It's true that the media has built a pretty tight firewall around him, insulating Americans from the less savory information in his past. Few outside of political junkies know about the depths and breadth of his Rezko association; the $100 million dollars he and Bill Ayers frivoled away propping up radical Chicago groups, rather than Chicago schools; his surprisingly close relationship with that same Bill Ayers, the one who was behind the Pentagon bombing; his mentorship from Communist and pedophile, Frank Marshall Davis; his numerous and overlapping links to organizations committed to America's demise; or the fact that his term in the Illinois Senate saw a profound degradation in the standard of living that his constituents enjoyed.
Still, even with that media padding, and rapturous leg quivering, the media has had to concede a few things about Obama. Voters know that he spent 20 years attending weekly sermons from a man who loathes America; they know that he spent a significant chunk of his career as a community organizer, a "profession" most Americans would find impossible either to define or to justify; they know that he was a law professor who never managed to publish anything; they know that he didn't sponsor any significant legislation during his tenure in the Illinois Senate; they know that he didn't sponsor any significant legislation during his tenure in the United States Senate; and they know that he's spent virtually all of his undistinguished time in the United States Senate campaigning to become president. In other words, no matter how the media tries to protect Obama from his own past, the facts that have leaked out reveal a man of little experience and no accomplishments.
In my world, accomplishments matter. If I'm giving someone the highest executive office in the land, I'd kind of like that person to have a positive track record. That's why I liked Romney. Everything he touched turned to gold, not just gold lining his own pockets, but gold for everyone else connected to the project. That's also why I like McCain. He may not be a Romney-esque money machine, but he has a record of accomplishment. Whether or not one likes what he ended up doing, he at least got things done. Not so Obama. Even the least informed Americans must know that he's done nothing in his career but talk.
Faced with what appears to me to be a conundrum -- why the majority of voting Americans would prefer for president a man whose resume is a big fat zero - I asked a friend for his opinion. He said (and I think he's right), that most people don't care about Obama's past record of accomplishments. Instead, he says, they simply like what they hear. He's promising them a lot of things -- such as a crystalline, pre-industrial environment, without any economic downsides; peace and harmony with the baddest of bad guys; universal health care; and wealth for all -- and they believe those promises, despite the fact that Obama's ineffective resume shouldn't give them reason to believe that he can follow through on any of his promises.
And just like that, I suddenly got it. I got why Americans are flocking to Obama: They are precisely like the woman who wants to marry a romantic bad boy.
Sure, he's been running around on her, and he can get pretty verbally abusive. Still he always tells her he loves her and he promises her that things will get better. With those promises echoing in her head, she's absolutely certain that, if she can just get him to the altar, he'll improve. The act of marriage will magically transform him from an abusive boyfriend who makes pretty speeches into the man of her dreams -- one who is precisely as good as he promises to be. The fact that her friends keep pointing out his myriad failings and that they remind her that the leopard can't change his spots is irrelevant. He says he loves her and if, she can just force that marriage, he'll suddenly realize that he has to change.
I bet all of you, man and woman, have seen this scenario play out in the life of at least one woman you know. (And yes, that's sexist, but I don't know any men who go through this bizarre "she treats me horribly now, but she'll magically improve later" game.) And I ask you, those of you who have seen this or lived this: Does the man ever change, either because of the ceremony or because the woman wants him to?
I've never seen it happen. I have seen some men change, but that's come from within, and usually goes along with hitting rock bottom and then finding God. The wedding ring had nothing to do with it.
Right now, voters are thrilling to the feeling of dating the political bad boy, the cool guy who talks a good line, but who has a trail of personal and professional failures in his wake (and some pretty unsavory friends too). Everybody wants to date the bad boy once and a while. But the thing is, you don't marry the bad boy. Just as marriage to the bad boy won't magically make him better, a presidential inauguration won't transform the anti-American, unaccomplished Barack Obama into an effective statesman imbued with a true love for his country.
So, if you voters think there is more to this Barack Obama than just pretty words, I suggest that you do with him exactly what I'd suggest if you were a young woman infatuated with the bad boy: Wait a while (four years? eight years? twelve years?) and see whether, with time, he either grows up and grows out of it, or if he follows that downward trajectory, validating your decision to reject him in the first place.
Bookworm is proprietor of the blog Bookworm Room.