The magical appeal of Barack Obama


Never before in the history of American politics has an individual charmed the public with the magnetism that Barack Obama has cast throughout the country.

In the end, he may not become the President of the United States, or even become the candidate of the Democratic Party, for that matter. Nothing is ever certain in politics, but one thing is certain: He is a cinch to go down in the annals of history as the most charismatic political figure to grace the American scene.

Many of us graybeards can recall the instant furor that was temporarily created by the emergence of “Clean Gene McCarthy” with his opposition to the Vietnam War, or the universal adoration of the “I Like Ike” mania over the drafting of WWII hero, Dwight Eisenhower, but none of these can compare with the sustained clamor over the rising star of Barack Obama.

To date, everything has been thrown at him but the kitchen sink, yet his star continue to rise untarnished throughout the country, from the rocky shores of New England to the sandy beaches of Hawaii. The herd of conservative radio talk-show hosts has launched around-the-clock condemnations of his candidacy, yet his train rolls on.

Political pundits are at a loss as to why this political season is breaking all records with turnout, especially by new voters. Right here in our own Minnesota, we have seen precincts running out of ballots, and voters actually being turned away. The same thing is happening throughout the country. The only thing new this election season is the Obama mystique.

Another amazing thing about this phenomenon is that it transcends race, class and ethnicity. It is indeed and equal opportunity uprising. Last week I ran into an upper middle-class Caucasian female, the wife of a noted Far-East scholar at Carlton College in Northfield, MN. She stated, “I’m sorry, but I’ll have to excuse myself, for I have to catch a plane to Dallas.” Further questioning revealed that she was on her way to Texas to volunteer for Obama.

My first question was: “Do you have relatives there to stay with?” Her answer was “No, but I am sure I’ll find someplace to stay. I understand that he needs help with Spanish speakers with the Latinos there, and I am very fluent in Spanish.”

In that same vein, I understand from the Minnesota Obama headquarters that when they were weekly busing volunteers to Iowa, many of them came down from out-state Minnesota to spend the weekend door-knocking for the senator. And, let’s not forget that a majority of the states that he has won have been “red states” of the traditional Republican Midwest.

As was previously indicated, a million things can happen between now and November 4; but let’s face it, signs are looming strongly that President Bill Clinton may have to abandon his alleged title of “The First Black President!”

Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to