Tom Wolfe Explains Obama's Rise

Emmett Tyrrell

10/2/2008 12:01:00 AM - Emmett Tyrrell

WASHINGTON -- Tom Wolfe, the eminent novelist and sociologist, has a theory that explains what the Democrats are doing to themselves and on Nov. 4 will do to the country. What they are doing is bringing to the presidency, in a time of war and financial crisis, a total novice. That would be Sen. Barack H. Obama. Oh, yes, and his running mate is Sen. Joe Biden, a total airhead.

Recently, in stentorian solemnity, this airhead declared to a bemused audience of Democrats that at the time of the 1929 stock market crash, the president of the United States was "Franklin Roosevelt," who addressed the financial peril straight away by getting "on the television." This is the same clown who we are told tapped a reporter on the chest, saying, "You need to work on your pecs." I assume the reporter was male. Though the Democrats insist Gov. Sarah Palin is a boob, she has yet to equal Sen. Biden's buffoonery.

At any rate, of the two candidates on the Democratic ticket, airhead Biden is the most politically experienced. His presidential running mate attained public office only 11 years ago, after being elected to the Illinois Senate. There his achievements were exiguous. Possibly it is churlish of me to repeat what careful readers already know about state Sen. Obama, but here are the essentials: In Springfield, Ill., state Sen. Obama voted straight Chicago machine, and he voted "present" 130 times. He took no chances and left no mark. He was not the candidate that he claims to be today, the champion of "reform" and "change." Though we now know the Prophet Obama as a ceaseless moral ham, he has since his days as an Ivy Leaguer no unique civic, intellectual or moral achievements to his credit other than two best-sellers -- a recent political potboiler and an autobiography that abounds with self-centered indignant passages that his campaign hopes will rarely catch the public eye.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but the Democrats' presidential candidate never became a national figure until 2005, when he became a United States senator. Moreover, in the United States Senate, he has been no more significant than he was in the Illinois Senate, possibly because he is not a particularly strong personality. Or it could be that he did not have time for the U.S. Senate. Within weeks of his arrival there, his aides were in Iowa testing the waters for a presidential campaign. He has been running for the presidency for most of the past three years.

Comparing his political experience with that of the Republican candidates, Sen. John McCain and Gov. Palin, Sen. Obama's experience most closely approximates that of Gov. Palin, whom the media adjudges unprepared to be president. Neither is comparable to Sen. McCain's experience. Yet Gov. Palin's political career began with a city council seat in 1992. She was elected mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, in 1996. That would be one year before Sen. Obama entered the Illinois Senate. All told, the Republican vice presidential candidate has served government in an executive capacity for eight years, two as governor. The Democratic presidential candidate never has held an executive office. Still, the Democrats disdain Palin and exalt the novice Obama.

Here is where Tom Wolfe comes in. In his most recent novel, "I Am Charlotte Simmons," and elsewhere, Wolfe has propounded his theory of "Championism," to wit: people suffering the "real emotions" of "exultation" or "depression" over the fate of those they deem their champions. At its most absurd, Championism takes hold of sports fans who identify passionately with athletes they hardly know and -- truth be told -- probably would not want to know. Wolfe mentions, in particular, professional athletes, say New York Yankees, who might not even live in New York. The fans attribute all manner of diableries to their teams' opponents and stupendous virtues to their own stars.

Wolfe believes that it is perfectly normal for people to take sides on an issue even when they know very little about the issue and have absolutely no involvement in it. On the matter of politics, both Democrats and Republicans usually have years invested in hollering for their parties. Some have sent in financial contributions. Some have sported their parties' buttons and bumper stickers. Thus, the political supporters' emotions run even higher than those of sports fans. Nonetheless, their emotions might be equally absurd. Time and again, political messiahs have been exposed to be frauds and a danger to the commonweal.

In the case of the Prophet Obama, it is apparent that he has almost no experience governing anything. Are Democrats going to vote for such a novice in a time of war and financial crisis? If they do and he spends the next few years learning on the job, the Democratic Party could end up in the wilderness for a long time.