“Since the Obama phenomenon has no precedent in American politics, we must look to folk tales to understand it,” writes Wes Pruden in today’s Washington Times.

Yes, that’s what strikes me most about the phenom, too-it’s not politics as usual, and certainly not politics in any sense that, say, the authors of the Federalist Papers might have understood. It is a mass movement of seemingly mythical proportions.

Pruden invokes the Pied Piper to explain this unprecedented development in our body politic:

“The Pied Piper of Hyde Park is clearly the direct descendant of the Pied Piper of Hamelin,” writes Pruden, noting that both appeal to children, the earlier one having lured children to their deaths after the city of Hamlin refused to pay him for having rid the city of rats. Go to Youtube to see the Piper of Hyde Park’s Dear Leader-like effect on children (not without some help from their parents and tachers).

Mature Republicans and college professors are also lured by the Piper of Chicago:

“Many who imagine themselves smart, educated and intellectual are reduced to schoolyard gibberish in denouncing John McCain and Sarah Palin – first and foremost Sarah Palin – and vowing obeisance to the Chicago messiah. The fanatics are particularly unhinged by inquiries into Mr. Obama’s Chicago past, and what his associations on the South Side and in the intellectual warrens of Hyde Park say about who he really is, the beliefs he holds dearest (if any) and how his “palling around” with shady characters has eroded respect for his judgment. One typical correspondent, a distinguished professor at one of our most expensive universities, writes to scold me for mentioning Mr. Obama’s association with William Ayers, the unrepentant ’60s terrorist on whom the senator showered foundation money and now blandly describes as “just a guy from the neighborhood.”

Not surprisingly, Erica Jong has joined the throng, telling Italians this week that an Obama loss “will spark the second American Civil War. Blood will run in the streets’”

No matter whom you plan to vote for on Nov. 4, I hope you join me in deploring the infantilization of American politics. I’m afraid deploring is just about the only thing we can do. Something strange has taken place.