There seems to be a lot of interest in talking about Obama. Here at S-squared, a series of posts last week attracted a fair amount of traffic and comments.
I think there are actually two issues here. The first has to do with the particular message that Obama is advancing. While that message (as opposed to what you could find in position papers) was a bit obscure at first, I think the campaign has moved to harden it and it is a fairly unreconstructed economic populism and protectionism.
While the rhetoric does not match Obama's particular policy proposals (which, while certainly expensive, seem more modest than his claims for global and generational change suggest), the message seems to at least imply that we are all suffering and it is the fault of a few.
This message is, in my view, false and informed by bad economics. It is demagogic and points toward some dangerous policies. But I know that others disagree and, to the extent that Obama can argue eloquently for their view of the world, he is like Reagan. But there's more.
The message is not unrelated to the messianic tendencies of Obama's campaign because it promises a degree of deliverance from the state that it cannot possibly deliver and that can, if attempted, cause more harm than good. But there's more.
The excitement over Obama seems to outstrip his particular policy positions and, for many, doesn't seemed tied to any particular view of the world but to the atmospherics surrounding his campaign. Obama has done a good job of capitalizing on the understandable enthusiasm of African Americans (and not a few whites) for a black presidential candidate (it's another post but I don't intend this as a criticism) and the weakness of young voters (in most places and at most times) for millenial politics.
This has resulted in the trope that Obama represents something new that transcends old politics. In the comments to my earlier posts, some tried to argue that Obama is somehow changing how we do politics but, for the life of me, I can't see how that is supposed to be so. The message is not new and it's not unifying. If you like the message, I can understand your enthusiasm for the "new" world you believe it will usher in, but what you are excited about is victory in the old political battles, not their transcendence. That you want people to be excited and "believe in" government is not particularly distinctive.
The enthusiam that has, so far, masked this is not simply "popularity." It threatens to give allegiance to a political candidate and cause a degree of intensity that it is out of order with what candidates and politics can deliver. It gives the candidate the role of a Messiah and the campaign the aspects of a Crusade. If that doesn't make you uncomfortable, then we are not simply on different pages, we are reading different books.
(NB: Of course, we have these dangers on the right. Folks on the left have rightly criticized some of my conservative brothers and sisters for conflating support for every aspect of the War on Terror with patriotism. )