A scene in the movie Dick captures a pop culture phenomenon of the early 1970s. Arlene Lorenzo (Michelle Williams), as did countless teenage girls across the nation in the Nixon era, plastered images of singer and teen heartthrob, Bobby Sherman, all over her bedroom wall. (Later, she’d replace Sherman’s pictures with those of Richard Nixon, only to rip those down when she becomes disenchanted with the then-President.)
I often think of the Bobby Sherman phenomenon when I see the iconic image of Barack Obama plastered to the rear window or bumper of a car — or on someone’s T-shirt. I can’t recall any other political candidate whose bumper sticker featured his image.Â Sometimes, it seems more a personality cult than political campaign.
Talking to certain Obama supporters, I really do get the sense this is more a cult than a campaign. I ask them to name something he has accomplished in office. Well, he was a community organizer. What did he do as a community organizer? He organized his community, comes the tautological reply. Can you name specific things he’s done. Silence.
In one case, an Obama supporter actually told me that his accomplishments didn’t matter. He just liked the way the Democrat spoke, saying the Illinois Senator’s words convinced him he could lead.
Or take a gander at some of the conservatives backing Obama. They base their support not on their man’s record, but his promise. Commending the Democrat on his books, his temperament and his intellect, Christopher Buckley writes:
Obama has in him, I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy ‘We are the people we have been waiting for’ silly rhetoric, the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.
Like my interlocutors who are unfamiliar with Obama’s accomplishments, so too is Buckley. Well, maybe he is so familiar; he just doesn’t cite those accomplishments in his endorsement.
Like teenage girls in the early 1970s, Democrats, some independents and and a handful of conservatives have become infatuated with someone because of his looks and ability to sing, er, speak, reasonably well. They love him for the image he projects not the ideas he promotes.
I wonder if their fascination will fade if Obama loses. Or if he handles an international crisis the way his running mate expects him to. Maybe, like Arlene Lorenzo, they’ll tear his pictures down when they fall for another man.