It turns out that I’m not the only one who views Obama as a cipher, someone so fundamentally blank that others are able to project on him their own hopes, beliefs and desires. John Podhoretz says almost the same thing, so I feel as if I’m in fairly good company:
If you love Barack Obama, as almost everybody interested in U.S. politics does right now, ask yourself this simple question: What do you know about his opinions on any subject?You probably remember he gave a masterful speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. You recall how he spoke and that it was he who spoke: a poised and handsome black man with a deep voice that’s reassuring and commanding at the same time.
But what did he say?
Admit it. You don’t really care.
Obama is an uncommonly opaque rock-star politician, though not through any fault of his own. He’s written and published two wildly successful books, a memoir and a rumination on politics and policy. But of the million or so people who’ve bought his books, I’d wager only a tenth have sampled more than a few pages. They don’t need to read Obama to love him. They love that he writes and he publishes. They love how he speaks. They love the fact that he exists. They love the way he makes them feel.
This is the key to his appeal, and it places Obama in a very unusual position for an elected politician: He is now the semi-official Rorschach Candidate of 2008.
The Rorschach Candidate is the one who provokes enthusiasm not because of the positions he takes but because of who he is. He doesn’t seem like a politician; he seems to be better than a politician – fresh, new, different.
The Rorschach Candidate is especially exciting because under normal circumstances he couldn’t possibly take the nomination, and his race for president would seem like a revolutionary and transformative act in itself.
You can read the rest here.