On November 4th, Barack Obama just might win the presidential election. But regardless of whether he wins or loses, the vast majority of his supporters will lose. If McCain wins the election, they will feel the sting of watching the candidate they placed all their hopes in be defeated. But it stands to be much worse for them if their candidate wins.
By placing their hopes and aspirations in the hands of Obama, they have in effect transferred the individual faith they have in themselves to another person. A person who has promised to make their dreams come true for them. No longer will they have to fight, or struggle, or even work to achieve their dreams; Obama promises to do it all for them. But sooner, rather than later, they will realize that Obama can never deliver on this impossible promise. It is then when they will experience a pain much greater than they can imagine; the pain of realizing that you gave up not only your most sacred dreams and hopes to someone else, but that you gave up hope on yourself so that someone else can do it for you.
Fouad Ajami has an excellent editorial in the Wall Street Journal. He sees a disturbing similarity between the throngs of Obama supporters and to what he used to see in Egypt during his youth.
My boyhood, and the Arab political culture I have been chronicling for well over three decades, are anchored in the Arab world. And the tragedy of Arab political culture has been the unending expectation of the crowd — the street, we call it — in the redeemer who will put an end to the decline, who will restore faded splendor and greatness. When I came into my own, in the late 1950s and ’60s, those hopes were invested in the Egyptian Gamal Abdul Nasser. He faltered, and broke the hearts of generations of Arabs. But the faith in the Awaited One lives on, and it would forever circle the Arab world looking for the next redeemer.
America is a different land, for me exceptional in all the ways that matter. In recent days, those vast Obama crowds, though, have recalled for me the politics of charisma that wrecked Arab and Muslim societies. A leader does not have to say much, or be much. The crowd is left to its most powerful possession — its imagination.
* * *
The morning after the election, the disappointment will begin to settle upon the Obama crowd. Defeat — by now unthinkable to the devotees — will bring heartbreak. Victory will steadily deliver the sobering verdict that our troubles won’t be solved by a leader’s magic.
Unable to deliver anything of substance, Obama has built his entire campaign, and for that matter, his career, on addressing only the ethereal. This gives him the latitude to be everything to everyone. To the steelworker, he portrays himself as a blue-collar man; to college students, he talks of intellectual hypothesis; to the regular Jane and Joe on the street, he transforms himself into a regular Barry. He accomplishes all of this not by providing substance but by instead providing himself as the vessel, the incarnation for all these people to realize their dreams.
It will be a sad day indeed when Obama’s supporters realize he is really just merely a mortal.