President Obama didn't win office on experience, credentials, or accomplishment. He won for one reason only: who he is. He has a winning personality, and America had a love affair with their new American Idol; rewarding him with its highest office. Politics went from being about policy to being about personality. Republicans who supported Obama didn't care about his specific positions, they just felt that it was "time for a change," and were moved by Obama's flowing oratory. Even those of us who didn't support Obama were at times moved by it, and personally speaking, I disagreed with much of what Obama ran on.
Prior to this last election cycle, politics, and especially presidential politics (at least in my memory), were never centered around personality, or wanting to have a beer with the candidate. Reagan won in large part due to the poor performance of Carter, the Iran hostage crisis and inflation. Bush Sr. won on the tails of a successful Reagan presidency. Clinton won mainly due to the interference of third party candidate, Ross Perot. Bush won in a near even split of the electorate. In all of these elections, the personality of the candidate had less to do with getting elected than their policies did. In fact, more often than not, it was a choice of the lesser of evils based on their policy stance, and personality was largely irrelevant.
The exact opposite was true with the election of Obama. During the campaign, the most common description of Obama was that from a policy standpoint, he was a blank slate, a vessel in which his fans could place their hopes and dreams. His campaign slogans reflected this by using vague terms like "hope" and "change," and enthusiastically telling supporters, "Yes we can," as if before Obama, they weren't sure if they could. He was a master of non-specifics, and of high minded, soaring, intellectual and often times inspiring, if vague, rhetoric.
For the first time, it wasn't the greatness of the country, or of the structure of our government and freedoms set forth by the framers, which inspired confidence in America and would get us through the economic crisis. No longer did we put our stock in the idea that there is something special about Americans, all Americans, that despite the odds, despite how bleak the picture was, that we would always, via our ingenuity, hard work and freedom, come through the problems of the day; as we had before, time and time again, when facing worse threats in our 200 plus year history. This time, America's doomed fate could only be saved by one person: a man named Barack Obama, who given the chance, promised to change the country, without much real discussion about how.