Obama smoothly, strategically and subtly mines the well of white guilt. In his acceptance speech after his Iowa sweep -- which sounded an awful lot like the speech of a president, or at least a nominee, rather than the pick of a few sturdy Iowans -- Obama liberated his inner Martin Luther King.
Launching into the singsong cadences of King's "I Have A Dream"
speech, Obama crooned: "They saaaaid. They saaaaid. They saaaaid this day would never come. They saaaaid our sights were set too high. They saaaaid this country was too divided ... but on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do."
You don't suppose he'd been working on that one, do you? And who are "they"? Who said this day would never come? Who said whose sights were set too high?
No one lately and no one in Obama's relatively golden experience.
Destined for the historical audio files, Obama's speech was grandiose prose and inspiring rhetoric. But what does it mean? It means nothing, but it sounded so good, who wants to cause trouble? We're feelin' good for the first time in a while and that's what matters.
Obama isn't just the inevitable dream candidate. He is the self-object of Oprah Nation, love child of the therapeutic generation. What he brings to the table no one quite knows. But what he delivers to the couch is human Prozac.
He may or may not be the right man to fill the Oval Office, but Americans will feel too good to notice.