By Jill Chapin
February 21, 2008
Republicans don’t get it. Rush Limbaugh doesn’t get it. Even Hillary Clinton doesn’t get it. They can define Barack Obama as an empty suit from now until November, but it will fall on deaf ears to his supporters who are absolutely gaga for his oratorical skills.
Clinton revels in describing Obama as a blank canvas where we the voters are eager to paint our own policy picture onto him. She may argue the folly of supporting someone with what little we know about him, but the obvious retort would have Obama loyalists wondering about those who support a candidate with all that we do know about her.
Our seemingly superficial attraction for this charismatic guy has more depth and substance than his detractors would want to admit. A savvy electorate knows that a politician’s positions begin as a wish list. Turning campaign promises into reality is often an exercise in executive promises that simply cannot be kept, because there are two other branches of government that hold the president in check.
But Obama supporters believe that he has the best expertise and negotiating ability and finesse to accomplish more with his verbal skills than anyone we’ve come across in decades.
Nevertheless, Obama’s opponents still fear that our frenetic enthusiasm for this gifted speaker is a shallow determinant for judging the competence of our next president.
But words do matter. Whether original or borrowed from his friends, we accord him full credit for the words he chooses. His powerful, uplifting cadence invites us to actually listen. For too many of us, it’s the first time we haven’t pushed the mute button on a political ad.
Obama has already proven the power of words. His invigorating delivery of words is what propels millions to register to vote, to campaign for him, to make donations, and to suffer bad weather to stand in line to vote for him in staggeringly record numbers. His ability to rouse so many people from their apathetic stupor is proof enough that he may be on to something never seen before.
If we can get off our couch for him, then maybe we can get up to help ourselves and each other too. Consider the following:
Clinton says she has solutions for us.
Obama says we will need to be part of the solution.
Clinton asks for your vote.
Obama asks us to join a movement.
Clinton appeals to the victim mentality.
Obama encourages us to be proactive.
Clinton paints us as weak and in need of her leadership.
Obama tells us we’re stronger than we think.
Clinton warns that only she can pull us from the dark ages of our sorry lives.
Obama encourages us to participate in our own renaissance revival.
Obama asks us for more than our money and our vote. A large part of his inspirational message is that we also have a job to do. Even if this is all only a clever political ploy, it’s working, and we can only assume that if he can sway millions, then he probably can be a force to reckon with in congress, and on the world stage.
This must be why we turn up the volume when we see Senator Obama on the screen. Senator Clinton keeps reminding us that she’ll be ready from Day One, but we’re beginning to tune out her relentlessly angry, uninspiring, woe-is-us rhetoric. Words matter. Words – and how they are arranged and spoken – matter.
Yes they do.
Illinois Senator Barack Obama