I sat in on a session with three leaders of Veterans for Obama, a group of retired young officers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of the New Republic’s writer on the scene, David Samuels. With passion and enthusiasm, these young people spoke of their hopes for nation-building in Iraq. The George W Bush administration should have put twice the resources into the beleaguered country, they harangued me – not just soldiers, but agronomists, traffic cops, lawyers, judges, and physicians. The Department of Agriculture should have mobilized, along with the Department of Justice.
Nation-building? Doubling down on the US commitment to Iraq? Isn’t that trying to out-Bush the Bush administration, while Obama campaigned on getting out of Iraq and spending the money on programs at home? Unblinking, one of the soldiers said, “That’s what we think Barack will do.” They believed in a more expensive version of the administration’s program, and faulted Bush for half measures – and somehow they believed that Obama really agreed with them, all the public evidence to the contrary. And they believed in Barack with perfect faith.
I hear variations of this theme constantly on the Left. You don’t see the same level of disagreement with Obama on issues that you see with McCain on the Right. Despite a wide diversity of views on the left side of the spectrum, every individual seems to believe that Obama supports his or her particular set of views.
It’s a little creepy.
I see this phenomenon as evidence that Obama’s support comes from a deep emotional need in leftists to see themselves personally validated by having the President be one of them. In order to invest themselves so deeply in a mere politician, they must remake the politician over in their own image. They project their own policy desires onto Obama.
Obama assists in this process by remaining a cipher and speaking of policy only vaguely. He creates a kind of negative space in which the imagination of the individual leftist fills in what they wish to see.
Even if Obama wins, he will be a weak President. He will have no true mandate because many people, like the veterans above, will not have voted for his actual policies but for their own individual fantasy projections. When the reality of his presidency does not mesh with their fantasies, they will turn on him.