WASHINGTON -- There's no better path to success than getting people to buy a free commodity. Like the genius who figured out how to get people to pay for water: bottle it (Aquafina was revealed to be nothing more than reprocessed tap water) and charge more than they pay for gasoline. Or consider how Google found a way to sell dictionary nouns -- boat, shoe, clock -- by charging advertisers zillions to be listed whenever the word is searched.
And now, in the most amazing trick of all, a silver-tongued freshman senator has found a way to sell hope. To get it, you need only give him your vote. Barack Obama is getting millions.
This kind of sale is hardly new. Organized religion has been offering a similar commodity -- salvation -- for millennia. Which is why the Obama campaign has the feel of a religious revival with, as writer James Wolcott observed, a "salvational fervor" and "idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria."
"We are the hope of the future," sayeth Obama. We can "remake this world as it should be." Believe in me and I shall redeem not just you but your country -- nay, we can become "a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest."
And believe they do. After eight straight victories -- and two more (Hawaii and Wisconsin) almost certain to follow -- Obama is near to rendering moot all the post-Super Tuesday fretting about a deadlocked convention with unelected superdelegates deciding the nominee. Unless Hillary Clinton can somehow do in Ohio and Texas on March 4 what Rudy Giuliani proved is almost impossible to do -- maintain a big-state firewall after an unrelenting string of smaller defeats -- the superdelegates will flock to Obama. Hope will have carried the day.
Interestingly, Obama has been able to win these electoral victories and dazzle crowds in one new jurisdiction after another, even as his mesmeric power has begun to arouse skepticism and misgivings among the mainstream media.
ABC's Jake Tapper notes the "Helter-Skelter cultish qualities" of "Obama worshipers," what Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Times calls "the Cult of Obama." Obama's Super Tuesday victory speech was a classic of the genre. Its effect was electric, eliciting a rhythmic fervor in the audience
-- to such rhetorical nonsense as "We are the ones we've been waiting for.
(Cheers, applause.) We are the change that we seek."
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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