Looking into the faces of a more than 16,000-strong crowd in a basketball stadium in Hartford, Connecticut this week, the Mandela magic I'd seen before was there too. Black and white, and the youth; they appeared in a state close to rapture watching Obama speak. Here and there one could see women crying and some men wiping away tears too. [...]- Washington correspondent Geoff Elliott. The Australian February 9, 2008.
But Obama is part politician, part cult. Supporters wearing T-shirts with an Andy Warhol like pop-art image of his face testify to that. But then they - him - were once easy to dismiss until people realised Obama's charisma was being matched by one of the most sophisticated ground operations ever seen. It is one that is outsmarting the Clinton machine. He's marrying inspiration and cult with old-fashioned political grunt.
One would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by Obama on the stump. It's not so much by what he says but it's the way the crowds respond to his words. When 16,000 people, without prompting, start shouting some of his keynote phrases as he delivers them, you know something special is going on.
The atmosphere at his events is such that one wonders if Obama is about to walk out with a basket with some loaves and fishes to feed the thousands.
A big black vehicle came past, escorted front and back by mounted police to hold the crowds away. People rushed forward screaming hysterically. Police edged them back and the vehicle moved slowly forward.The Obama Cult: Both Ugly And Beautiful (Eyewitness account of Obama Rally) February 11, 2008.
I asked a woman, “Who was that?” She’d been one of those who pushed herself up toward the SUV. She turned to me as if I were out of my mind, “It was HIM!” she yelled. “But,” I questioned, “how do you know? All the windows were darkened.” She replied, “I felt it.”
So we continued to wait. Then it was time for the doors to open. Suddenly the vast mob broke and raced pell-mell for the doors. No more pretense at lines. Well-dressed men and ladies in suits and fancy hats stampeded forward like animals, just like the young people in droopy pants, t-shirts, and do-rags. . . .
The crowd grew more than restless, restless to the umpteenth power, fed up with surrogates. It began to roar, “O-BAH-MA!” A chant that shook the building and vibrated the floor in its immensity.
An then, there he was. I had moved all the way to the back of the Convention Center, from which vantage, oddly, I could see him pretty well. He gave the same speech he gives everywhere. I paid no attention to him but watched the crowd.
Those faces. It was raw, naked, complete, worship, love, heart-whole passionate stunned and almost unbelieving but desperately wanting to believe him adoration.