Once upon a time, in a land not nearly far enough away, there was a Contest to see which of several candidates would win a four-years' stay in a certain House of White. The Contest was lengthy and protracted, and many valiant knights fell by the wayside during its fierce and daring battles. Some yet remember the names of the illustrious fallen: Rudy of the Burning City, who failed to ignite his followers into any passion; Romney the Unflappable, who famously tried to seem a Man of the People, and failed miserably; Edwards the Miller's Son; William the Large; Fred the Sleepy-Eyed; and Duncan the Hunter were but a few of those who tried, but could not contend, and lost their way in the earliest of some verbal Jousts, which were called Debates, and which consisted of the candidates' attempts to agree with each other in the sneakiest and most tricky of ways, so that agreement seemed like profound discord. ('Tis true, though strange; such ways are not the ways of common men.)
As the time of the Contest, called an Election (owing, it is suspected, to the People's profound indifference to the whole matter and their election to remain at home while the partisans of the Contest braved bad weather and dimly-lit polling stations to register their choices) drew nearer, lo, there were but a handful of candidates remaining who had not yet withdrawn their names from the ring, and who were prepared to contend mightily with each other to the final hour, or at least to their Party's conventions. These few were McCain the Warrior, Huckabee of the South, Paul the Scholar on the one side; and Lady Hillary the Strident and Obama the Enigmatic on the other. Though it might appear that the sides were uneven, it was generally agreed that Huckabee and Paul, could they but have been combined, would make one good candidate instead of two indifferent ones; and thus the matter was accepted by both Parties.
And it came to pass that more Debates were planned, and more such minor battles, when someone whose name was not recorded, and who is therefore not important, had an idea to help the People to distinguish which among these candidates should advance to the final round of the Contest, called the General Election, though no generals were involved, and would not be elected in any case. This idea was that each of the remaining candidates should cause to have made for themselves a Mantle or Cloak, and by its merits show their fitness or unfitness to assume the Office and the Residency of the House of White. It was not a very good or very original idea; thus it was adopted at once by the Parties responsible for the Contest, who never met a half-baked idea they didn't like.
And so on the appointed day, a trumpet blast was blown, and each candidate appeared in turn to display his (or her) Cloak to the People, and thus show that they should be victorious in the Contest.
The first to appear was Paul the Scholar. His Cloak glittered like gold; in fact, it was made of gold thread, for, as Paul himself declared, there was no more appropriate material to garb the resident of the House of White, and by extension all the People of the nation. The idea might have been well-received, but for the unfortunate fact that this Cloak was very heavy, and caused Paul to walk stooped low to the ground; thus he was ridiculed, and his message ignored.
The next to come forth was Huckabee of the South. He wore a Cloak that he had worn while Lord of Arkansas, thus demonstrating his commitment to the principles of Thrift and Recycling; but alas! he had lost a prodigious amount of weight since those days, and the Cloak trailed the ground and wrapped around him like a shroud; he looked like a child dressed in his father's garment, and so he, too, was dismissed.
Next came McCain the Warrior. He had cleverly caused his Cloak to be made of military camouflage, which caused him to blend in with the background; thus each observer could see those aspects of McCain which he approved, and ignore as invisible those aspects which he found unpalatable. The People of McCain's Party roared their approval, and pledged to support the Warrior in the General Election.
Then it was time for the candidates of the other Party to appear. First came Lady Hillary the Strident, and some gasped at her audacity, for her cloak was lavish and rich, and had embroidered upon it the Seal of the resident of the House of White; which piece of arrogance she explained by the circumstance of her husband's having resided there formerly, which made her feel entitled to the display. But the people were not pleased with her presumption, nor with the lining of the cloak, which was clearly an old piece of material, blue and dirty; and so she was sent away.
Finally it was the turn of Obama the Enigma. He prolonged his appearance a while, so that the crowd grew restless, and some had even begun to turn away when he appeared. But then he entered, with such grace and charm, that it was a moment before some in the crowd began to murmur; for they could not see his Cloak at all!
But then Obama began to speak, and his words were thus: "My friends, some among you may think that you cannot see my Cloak; but fear not! The Cloak I am wearing is of great beauty, and is constructed of a material exceeding rare and strange: it is the Mantle of Change, and only those worthy of the great and just Principles of Change can see it! None who stare, be they mired in the Old Ways of the Past, will ever be able to discern e'en one of its shining threads, but We who are Worthy of Change marvel at its wonders, and faint before the power of its magnificence! For it is a true and fitting Covering for the one Destined to take up his habitance in the Great House of White; my Cloak, and mine alone, is a fit and meet Garment for the dignity of that House. See how it catches the light, the great Light of the Hope of Change! Look at how softly its folds billow around me, the rightful heir to the power of Change! You who are worthy enough to behold it, join me in our great and wondrous Quest, the Quest for Change!
And behold, the crowd was too abashed to tell the truth: they could not see this wondrous Cloak, nor witness any of its marvelous graces. But each among them had the same thought: he must not let his fellow know how unworthy he was! so one, then another, and soon the whole assembly, was chanting with one voice: "Change! Change! Change!"
Lady Hillary swore, and tore her Cloak into shreds; Paul and Huckabee shrugged, and packed their Cloaks away for another Contest, or for History; McCain ruefully overlooked his camouflage, and thought sadly that his own covering was not nearly so much a cipher, for it still denoted his martial spirit, while Obama's Cloak denoted nothing, and so could mean anything.
Amid the assembly, a small child muttered, "Change, indeed! And so he should; for only a madman wears a garment that doesn't exist." But sadly, no one attended to this bit of infant wisdom, and Obama's Cloak was declared to be the finest of all, and a room was set apart for it, to display it to the whole nation when the Contest should at last be concluded, at the museum which was called the Smithsonian.