Faith in Obama

I was speaking with a coworker yesterday evening, and he essentially conceded the point that Obama has no more meaningful experience than Palin.* He went on to say, however, that Obama is still “clearly” the better candidate, simply because “he’s more intelligent.”

What struck me about the discussion was its similarity to discussions I’ve had about religion. Because religion is necessarily irrational, anyone “debating” for religion must inevitably fall back on the same common position: “You gotta have faith.”

That simple statement serves both to assuage the religionist’s essential insecurity about his religious beliefs, vis a vis rational discussion, and to act as a logically unassailable position. After all, it’s true: to hold religious beliefs, you gotta have faith, and if you don’t have faith, then you can’t hold religious beliefs. And because faith means the absence of reason, it’s at this point that rational discussion must end–and invariably, it does.

For my coworker, the statement “He’s more intelligent” served the same general purposes. It assuaged his fundamental uncertainties about Obama’s lack of experience and credentials, and he repeated it as a mantra throughout our discussion. It also served as a method to redefine the debate into terms that were rationally unassailable. After all, measuring intelligence is difficult to do in any meaningful sense–as he put it, it’s “subjective,” thus allowing him to argue that if he thinks Obama’s more intelligent than Palin (or McCain), then that’s as meaningful a truth as any other.

This jives with the general tenor of the Obama campaign and the media’s portrayal of it. Obama gets a pass on all substantive issues such as experience, policy details, past and present associations, stated philosophy, etc., because of purely subjective evaluations of his public persona, such as his “intelligence,” his eloquence, his empathy, and his commitment to “change”–itself an objectively ambiguous but subjectively rich concept–and “hope.”

Obama supporters can, and do, overlook all of the flaws and question marks that would be fatal to anyone else’s campaign, and they do so by using the same tools  As with my coworker, they do so because, essentially, “you gotta have faith.”

Update: It seems that Obama would agree with my analysis. As he wrote in his book, The Audacity of Hope:

I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views… I am bound to disappoint some… of them. [Emphasis added.]

* Yes, I pointed out the fact that he had been comparing Presidential Candidate Obama with Vice Presidential Candidate Palin. His response was the expected “She’s a heartbeat away…” I pointed out Joe Biden would be a heartbeat away in an Obama administration, and he gave a sort of halfhearted “Well, Biden’s pretty good, too.” Fortunately, my phone rang, and I was spared the opportunity to laugh in a coworker’s face.

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