I have not been following the ups and downs of the American primaries very closely because there isn’t much profit to be had from it. I am sure that the internal workings of the US presidential elections are as interesting as those of the Nutrimatic Drink Dispenser, but the result will be the same. So I am only dimly aware of the Barack Obama phenomenon (and before you ask, I was completely uninterested in the Ron Paul phenomenon.) But from what I understand, he is like the Rajiv Gandhi of 1984.
There are many reasons why the dynastic system finds favour with people. A minor one among these is that every generation a new scion of the ruling family descends on the scene and makes a bid for a top post. Chances are, he will be a relatively young person among more senior contenders. Youth always attracts people – they associate it with freshness. They also instinctively associate it with a rapid rise, achievement and talent, even when they should know better. Because this person is from the ruling family, chances are that he has not had to fight his way to the top, has not had to make ugly compromises and does not have a history that gives some people a reason to hate him. His “clean past” is an empty vessel into which people can pour their hopes and aspirations, whatever they are, however unrealistic they are. So it was with the Rajiv Gandhi of 1984. With absolutely no basis in his track record, nay with no track record people had decided that he was the one who would lead the country into the 21st century. The dream took around 2 years to end.
Barack Obama is like that, except of course, he is not from a royal family. But you can see the same phenomenon at work. He is young, supposedly speaks well (haven’t heard him, because rarely watch TV) and has no track record of governance. So his campaign managers have decided that the best way to market him is as someone who brings freshness and “change”. Of course, no one anywhere in the world is completely happy with the current situation, whatever the situation is, so if someone credibly promises “change”, they will vote for him. They will assume that the change will happen in the direction they want, not in the direction their neighbour wants.
But the reason the current situation is current is not because most people are happy with the current situation, but because different people have different ideas for the direction in which things should change. The current situation is the equilibrium that has been achieved among the various pushes and pulls. If you really want change without going through a violent revolution, you need an insider familiar with the workings of the system who will nudge it in the “right” direction (whatever the right direction is.) Likewise, I will respect someone’s reputation for cleanliness a lot more if they maintain a spot of cleanliness after having been in the gutter than someone whose Kurta is clean because they have never had to enter he gutter.
(Note: This is not to be taken as an endorsement for McCain, or Clinton for that matter. The Examined Life refuses to endorse any candidate in any election.)
(Further note: Yes, this also applies to supporters of Ron Paul. Incidentally, this also applies to our own communist parties. Their rhetoric makes it sound like they are just about to conduct a revolution, while in reality they just care about winning the next election.)