It’s the promise to redeem our politics, “to create a kingdom right here on earth” — as he put it at a church event in South Carolina a few weeks ago — that accentuates his status as a different kind of candidate. The American left might be overwhelmingly secular, but it still has religious impulses, which tend to be channeled into their leaders.
Democrats want to revere their candidates. This has at least been the case since John F. Kennedy, the martyred president who embodied all that would have been good and true about America if it hadn’t taken a catastrophic wrong turn with his death. Obama offers Democrats the opportunity to fall in love all over again.
This is because he is relatively unsullied by politics. Hillary Clinton is not. No one could invest millenarian aspirations in Clinton. She has been attacked, and has attacked in turn too much. She has compromised too much. She has positioned herself with an eye to practical political considerations too much. Her goal isn’t to transform politics — she’s much too realistic for that — but to move public policy in a leftward direction that she thinks would help people’s lives. This is the stuff of grubby, everyday politics, and there is no wonder Oprah wants nothing to do with it, not with the ideal of an Obama presidency shimmering off in the distance.
Who knows how much Oprah’s endorsement will help Obama? This much is certain. If she helps get him elected president and expects politics as usual to dissipate under his glorious dispensation, she will be disappointed.