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My Sunday Times column this week is an extended essay on the scale and potential of the first black president of the United States. Money quote:

Then there is the unknowable factor of Obama’s star power. No presidential candidate in modern times has drawn 75,000 people out for a primary election rally, as he did in Portland last month. No one has inspired the dozens of songs, anthems, YouTube videos and poster art that this figure has.

Obama has something that Reagan and John F Kennedy had: a charisma that seems to fit the presidency. And he is obviously more Kennedy than Reagan, with youth on his side. Give the American presidency the allure of youth and testos-terone and it is an intoxicating mass media phenomenon. His personality could do for it what Kennedy did, what John Paul II did for the institution of the papacy in his first years and what Diana did for the institution of the monarchy: it’s a fusion of op-cultural mass appeal with highly authoritative institutions.

The theatre of this is unmissable.

What was previously a theory - a fantasy of a redeemed, rebranded America – gains real traction now that Obama is the actual nominee. As the moment approaches when he could be president, that power will only intensify. It will require careful management if it is not to degenerate into cultism and messianism. But what Obama has is what Kennedy had and Diana famously didn’t: a cool and measured interior. What makes the phenomenon sustainable is this odd mix of hot and cool, of intense emotional energy around this man, centred on a very calm and collected, even aloof, individual.

(Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty.)

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