I share the skepticism expressed by, say, Huffpo's Dave Sirota and Ken Silverstein's recent essay in Harper's. Obama's gift for making platitudes sound profound and judicious is so extraordinary it can be downright eerie. Then there's his natural demeanor, his way of connecting instantly and personally--that knack for "method acting" that's so essential to success for a politician in a mediated world. But if these qualities get put to the service of yet another corporate democratic agenda, then woe is us.
But I see two reasons he has a real chance. They are obvious on the surface, but the substantive implications run deep.
1) His name and ethnicity, his whole biography. This is the age of the mix and fusion and backgrounds don't get more fused and mixed than his. He has icon potential, for that reason. Put that together with his consistent opposition to the US invasion of Iraq and you get a statement to the world about America that could look stark enough to make a new beginning possible.
2) His age. Maybe it's time to say good-bye to the 60's once and for all. RIP to my generation. RIP to all that. Enough of Clintons and Bushes and Jesse Jacksons and William Bennetts and the culture war they represent. Maybe it's time for that whole ethos to fade away. No more Blowin' in the Wind, no more Okies from Muskogee. It's a new world. Let the young decide it's fate.
Remember JFK's "pass the torch to a new generation" theme? I'm no big fan of John Kennedy for reasons not relevant here--the point is simply that he represented an epochal historical and cultural shift for the most potent reason possible: he embodied it. His age and inexperience, his religion, his look and style, the whole package.
Obvious parallels with Obama, possibly tidal in scope and depth. That's why Obama could make it all the way and, if he did, it would be huge. Huger by far than the first woman president. The pending question is: does he have the vision--and the sand?