The cynical and hostile observer might note that the success of such a campaign thus far indicates some significant and widespread neurological damage in the voting population, but when all is said and done it is hard to fault a mass democratic election campaign for being largely vapid and bereft of substance. This is one of the reasons I tend to think so poorly of mass democracy, but since it is what we have at the moment there is a certain absurdity to the charge of insubstantiality, as if Mitt Romney rattling off 20 year-old talking points about the welfare state and family values represented some kind of substantive engagement with contemporary problems or John McCain repeating “we are winning” at every debate showed something other than the unimaginative status quo campaign that he is running.--Daniel Larison
I've pounded on Obama for the contrast between the passion of his rhetoric and the small beer that is his substance. I think, though, that Daniel has a point. I'm probably better informed about things political than the average citizen, and my eyes glaze over when Barack and Hillary bicker about the details of their health care proposals.
The question of whether the federal government should in effect nationalize the health care system is fairly momentous, as is the difference between a single-payer plan and one that allows for competition between different private plans. The nature and extent of mandates might be an important question, but like practically everything about health care policy, it leaves me totally cold. (Take it away, Cole!)
Since we regularly elect doves who turn out to be hawks, and soi-disant conservatives who turn out to be spenders of our grandchildren's substance, the policy thing is a bit of a charade, anyway.
Mass democracy brings out the worst in candidates and people alike. But the fact that Obama is better at infusing his image-building with poetry may not be the best reason to reject him.
The fact that his supporters, or some of them, endow his persona with messianic hopes, is, natheless, a reason to fear. The kindgdom is not of this world, and to pretend that it is amounts to political idolatry. The best weapon against this sort of thing is mockery.