Roger L. Simon

Obama: The candidate as Rorschach test

The longer this interminable election goes on, the less it seems to be about anything.  One candidate – so we are told – has a campaign filled with the proverbial rats diving off a sinking ship.  The other – stuffed to the gills with what some say are illicit dollars – spends the waning days of his campaign blowing millions of those dollars (in the midst of an economic meltdown) on something as bland and meretricious as an infomercial.

Yet that strategy appears to be working so far. For over two years, what Obama has done is to be particularly brilliant at evading saying anything of substance, in other words being brilliant at playing defense so that the world has no real idea of what he actually intends to do.

It’s the candidate as Rorschach Test.  You get to project on him what you think he is or what you want him to be.

So far this has proven a highly-successful strategy, but I submit it is in essence anti-democratic and not at all what was intended by our founders.  Yet, in this advertising media age, it almost seems inevitable.  What we are left with is sniffing the ground ffor the candidate’s true identity and what he we would do in office (not easy to ascertain under any condition).  In typically wise articles today Roger Kimball and Cliff May fear the worst. They could be right, of course, although, if Obama is elected, I hope they are not.

But coming back to the Rorschach test analogy, I suspect Obama’s success with this strategy–deliberate or not– relates directly to who he is as a person.  At forty-seven, having spent much of his adult life running for office, he is essentially an unformed man, ink splattered on a page.  He drifted off on many occasions toward some of the more disreputable characters in our culture (Wright, Ayers, Khalidi, etc.), but his supporters tell us not to take this seriously.  These are simply random ink blots.  Never mind that there are a fair number of them.  The dyes do what they do.  You can’t control them.  Well, maybe, maybe not.  Time will tell – or it won’t.

But the greatest true believers in this Rorschach test are the mainstream media.  For the most part, they have taken it at face value, never bothering to connect the dots, or seriously research missing eras in the candidate’s short history, for fear of disrupting their weltanschauung or threatening their already precarious jobs. Too bad.  They might have discovered who Obama really is – something the cadidate might not know himself.