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February 20, 2008

The Cult Of Barack Obama

by Doug Mataconis

The Obamagasm phenomenon apparently knows no bounds:

BALTIMORE — Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings has held elected office for more than a quarter-century, so he’s seen his fair share of politicians come and go.

But apparently he’s never seen one quite like Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

“This is not a campaign for president of the United States, this is a movement to change the world,” he said as he introduced Obama last week in Baltimore.

“You do not get 13,000 people in this auditorium with a campaign.”

True, perhaps, but at some point it becomes necessary to ask why this is happening, and what it means for our political system.

But Cummings is mild in his praise compared to some people:

“He walks into a room and you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere,” George Clooney told talk show host Charlie Rose.

“I’ll do whatever he says to do,” actress Halle Berry said to the Philadelphia Daily News. “I’ll collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear.”

Really Halle ? You’d do anything he asked you to ? I don’t use Nazi analogies often or lightly, but that is precisely the kind of thing that people thought about Adolf Hitler during his rise to power. It’s the reason that people went to Guyana with Jim Jones. It’s the reason they burned to death with David Koresh. And, it’s the reason they continue to give tons of money to religious hucksters.

I don’t take back my decision to vote for Barack Obama in Virginia’s primary; in the end, it was a vote directed more against Hillary Clinton and what kind of America she would create than it was a vote for him anyway. However, I’ve got to admit to having serious misgivings about the cult of personality that has arisen around Barack Obama.

It truly seems like people aren’t thinking, or don’t even care to think about what he might do as President because they’ve fallen in love with his slogans and they seem to believe, as Michelle Obama said last week, that only he can “save our souls.”

I addressed that issue yesterday and the words ring even truer in light of stuff like this:

Barack Obama isn’t going to “save our souls.” No President can save our souls, assuming we even have them. No one man is essential to the future of our nation, but listening to what Michelle Obama, and other Obama supporters say, one gets the clear implication that they believe that Barack Obama is some sort of political savior.

It’s the same sort of attitude I’ve noticed from some Ron Paul supporters, who have said in comments and on the Internet that freedom and America are doomed if Ron Paul is not elected President.

Assertions like this are not only wrong, they’re dangerous. Once you start putting that much faith in a political leader that is a flawed human being just like the rest of us, it really does become the cult of personality that some people have started talking about in connection with Barack Obama.

Whenever I hear any American saying that they’d “do anything” a politician says, like Halle Berry does (and I think she accurately reflects what many other Obama supporters believe), it scares me to death. Leaders like that are not good for America, and they’re not good for liberty.

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24 Comments

  1. That was a really stupid place to make a Nazi analogue. The cult analogue is a bit better. What you have to ask though is why is it that American’s think we have a soul that needs saving? Having a soul darkening fascist in charge of our country for 7 years ring a bell? If you don’t see speeches like Obama’s (and Ron Paul’s and Dennis Kuchinich’s) as necessary in the current political climate then I think you may not have a soul.

    That being said, you’re right, there’s no need for people to “do anything” he says. What needs to happen is educated and experienced people, people with expertise in all the relevant areas need to get on board so we get some solid brainpower behind this bus of excitement. Someone who was president of Harvard Law review is exactly the sort of person we want driving a brain train towards a smarter government.

    It remains to be seen whether Obama has the wisdom, will, and determination to do what needs to be done. What I do know is neither Hillary nor McCain have what it takes.

    We might still be fucked but Obama is our best bet at this point.

    Peace.

    Comment by Mike — February 20, 2008 @ 1:33 pm
  2. Mike,

    If the candidate is an empty suit, it doesn’t matter how soaring his rhetoric is. So far, Obama hasn’t proposed anything different from the socialist claptrap that Democrats have been shoveling down our throats for years.

    Second, since I don’t depend on the state to make me “feel good” I don’t need Barack Obama or anyone else to “save my soul”

    Finally, I think you’re being unfair to Obama by lumping him in with Ron Paul and Kucnich. He’s a far better public speaker than Paul and much, much saner than Kucinich.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 20, 2008 @ 1:48 pm
  3. Doug,

    Well, anyone who has that much blind faith in and slavish devotion to any politician is pretty much a pathetic loser incapable of thinking for themselves, but let’s not lose perspective here and assume that means the candidate is a herald of a coming apocalypse. Obama’s not a Nazi or even a cult leader, he’s just another bland politician who’s not saying much of anything about anything, who just happens to appeal to a lot of complete tools because he’s a pretty face who can give nice, non-threatening speeches. About the scariest thing he’s likely to try is giving us socialized medicine (which, although horrible, still won’t be the end of the world).

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 2:16 pm
  4. U.C.,

    You are mostly right about that, but the fact that people have this attitude about any politician (and I include the Paulistianians in that) is what really bothers me. Barack Obama may be a benign fool, but there may come a day when a smooth talking, charasmatic politician comes along with a far more sinister motives.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 20, 2008 @ 2:19 pm
  5. Doug,

    You are mostly right about that, but the fact that people have this attitude about any politician (and I include the Paulistianians in that) is what really bothers me.

    The overwhelming majority of the planet believes (without any concrete proof) that an all-knowing, all-seeing magical being created the universe and is controlling our every move…which as far as I’m concerned is about 100 times as insane as believing Barack Obama has all the answers. The world’s got a lot of people with weird beliefs in it, Doug…accept it, get a grip and get over it. :)

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 2:42 pm
  6. U.C.,

    Do you think that there is a real possibility that the American people would ever elect a charismatic demagogue who would do more than just give us universal health care, especially if he or she came along in a time of crisis ?

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 20, 2008 @ 3:09 pm
  7. Just because you feel passionate about a candidate and his ideas that doesn’t make you part of a cult. I guess going after Ron Paul isn’t enough for you all anymore, now you have to go after Obama and his supporters as well.

    I happen to think Obama is another lousy liberal socialist, but if his supporters truelly believe in his message then that is their business. I donated to and voted for Ron Paul because I love his libertarian views of ending the war, getting rid of the IRS, restoring civil liberties, and getting rid of the Fed. For me, it was never about Ron Paul, it was about his message. I will not apologize for my passion about limited government. Obama’s supporters feel the same way about him, so what?

    You point out Halle Barry’s comment as proof that his supporters will do anything he tells them to. One person doesn’t represent his all of his supporters and do you really think that Halle Barry really would do ANYTHING he asked her? Do you think she would burn somebody’s house down or kill somebody if he told her? Real cult followers would, but you have no idea what a cult really is.

    His followers simply strongly believe in what he is saying, nothing more. Some people are too fanatic, but that will happen when a politician has such a strong following. You would do a lot better in attacking his liberal fascism than his supporters.

    Comment by Chris — February 20, 2008 @ 3:11 pm
  8. It’s the same sort of attitude I’ve noticed from some Ron Paul supporters, who have said in comments and on the Internet that freedom and America are doomed if Ron Paul is not elected President.

    It had nothing to do with Paul. If I could have had my choice of pro-freedom candidates to run for the Republican nomination in ’08, it wouldn’t have been him.

    The doom and gloom scenario is all about the situation. There were a ton of things about the ’08 election that left the door wide open for a pro-freedom presidency and it still wasn’t enough. I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll get a better opportunity to reverse the statist trend. Sure, we’ll have better candidates from time to time, but the other dynamics won’t be there.

    Let’s face it: even the fiscal conservatives are convinced that the D.C. monstrosity is a necessary evil.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 20, 2008 @ 3:17 pm
  9. Do you think that there is a real possibility that the American people would ever elect a charismatic demagogue who would do more than just give us universal health care, especially if he or she came along in a time of crisis ?

    He wouldn’t even need to be charismatic. Witness 2004.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 20, 2008 @ 3:19 pm
  10. Chris,

    I was not referring to every Ron Paul supporter, just those that told me that America would not survive if Ron Paul wasn’t elected and those who told me that he was never, ever wrong.

    And I picked the Halle Berry quote because it was quite representative of things I’ve been hearing from a segment of Obama supporters for weeks now. The man talks and talks about hope but nobody seems to know what he stands for…..and yet they love him. I’d call that a cult.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 20, 2008 @ 3:24 pm
  11. Jeff,

    He wouldn’t even need to be charismatic. Witness 2004.

    I agree Bush sucks, but things aren’t nearly as bad as they could be.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 20, 2008 @ 3:24 pm
  12. Jeff,

    For whatever reason, the general public didn’t see it. Partly, I think it’s because most people didn’t buy in to the doom-and-gloom scenario (and, when it comes to some of the more passionate of those scenarios, I’m not sure that I do either).

    I don’t believe that Ron Paul was the last best hope of the freedom movement. I don’t even know that he was the best hope from what’s out there. Mark Sanford and Gary Johnson would’ve made far better candidates.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 20, 2008 @ 3:26 pm
  13. Did you even read my post, Doug?

    Sure, we’ll have better candidates from time to time, but the other dynamics won’t be there.

    It was the situation.

    - A WIIIIIDE open race in which a half a dozen candidates all had huge baggage.
    - No incumbent, no vice-president.
    - A worsening economy
    - A failing war

    It is very unlikely that Sanford or Johnson will ever have that kind of ammunition on their sides when they decide to take on the status quo.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 20, 2008 @ 3:35 pm
  14. Jeff,

    Well, you are right there, which is why I thought from the beginning that concentrating on the White House didn’t make sense.

    If real change is going to happen, its going to have to happen from the bottom up. We’re not going to elect a President like Ron Paul, or even Sanford or Johnson, until we have more Congressman, Senators, and members of state legislatures that believe in the things that they do.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 20, 2008 @ 3:37 pm
  15. In any other year, it wouldn’t have made any sense at all, but with so many of the stars lining up, we had to take a stab at it. We went for the jugular and came up short. Oh well. Now we look for silver linings and go back to the tedious work of permeating the parties and educating the populace.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 20, 2008 @ 4:10 pm
  16. I continue to reserve judgment on Obama. While I dislike Clinton a great deal, Obama hasn’t really convinced me that he is THE choice between the two (voting in the republican primary now is pointless except to vote against the incumbents)

    One thing Obama has done has sign a pledge for open government here

    I’ve got to give him credit for that and his stance on Iraq if nothing else. I don’t relish being taxed out of my head, but sensible foreign policy and accountability at the top would go a long way to atleast restoring some equilibrium.

    Comment by Greg — February 20, 2008 @ 4:40 pm
  17. Doug,

    Do you think that there is a real possibility that the American people would ever elect a charismatic demagogue who would do more than just give us universal health care, especially if he or she came along in a time of crisis?

    I have absolutely no idea what you’re getting at with this question…but I believe that people will vote for just about any philosophy if the timing is conducive to it and the candidate does a better job of selling his position than his opponent does.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 4:47 pm
  18. Doug,

    I agree Bush sucks, but things aren’t nearly as bad as they could be.

    If you think that Bush’s presidency has been anything short of catastrophic you’re on crack.

    We’re in a completely unnecessary war in Iraq that we’re losing primarily because of the President’s incompetence that’s cost the lives of 4,000 troops (and untold numbers of civilians)with no end in sight. We’ve pissed away most of our goodwill in the international community by electing that war-mongering shitkicker twice. The Bush administration helped enact four of the worst pieces of legislation in U.S. history (PATRIOT Act, Medicare Plan D, Bi-Partisan Campaign Finance Reform, MCA of 2006). And our government is now on the record as endorsing torture and opposing human rights and the rule of law. But you’re right, Bush hasn’t caused the earth to explode, yet, so I suppose we should all be grateful that he was only the shittiest president of the last 60 plus years rather than the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse.

    Seriously, Doug, sometimes I think you really do need to pull your head out of your ass on just how bad of a president Bush has been. I find it highly unlikely that Gore or Kerry would have been worse…particularly as they’d have been facing a Republican Congress.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 5:01 pm
  19. You forgot the $4 trillion of new debt.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 20, 2008 @ 5:48 pm
  20. Don’t worry, with the fed loosening policy, they’ll just inflate their way out of that debt!

    Or, more accurately, they’ll inflate the shit out of the currency, and yet STILL continue to spend so much money that we’re in deficit. It’s the American Way, right?

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — February 20, 2008 @ 6:45 pm
  21. *sigh* (UC shakes head sadly and wanders off towards the liquor cabinet)

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 11:35 pm
  22. Doug

    If real change is going to happen, its going to have to happen from the bottom up. We’re not going to elect a President like Ron Paul, or even Sanford or Johnson, until we have more Congressman, Senators, and members of state legislatures that believe in the things that they do.

    Exactly! All politics is local.

    Comment by Vivian J. Paige — February 21, 2008 @ 5:48 am
  23. “But you’re right, Bush hasn’t caused the earth to explode, yet, so I suppose we should all be grateful that he was only the shittiest president of the last 60 plus years rather than the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse.”

    I think he got the VP spot…the other three just got cabinet posts “Heckuva job, Pesti…er…Brownie!” :-)

    Comment by SC — February 21, 2008 @ 12:30 pm
  24. I find myself agreeing with Doug on this. The particulars of Obama’s and Bush’s philosophic and economic beliefs are almost irrelevant. Even before I read his comments about Clooney’s and Berry’s comments I thought about Hitler’s rise to power. Hitler’s philosophic and economic views were obviously evil and misguided. However, if the public had not been so entranced by his rhetoric and persuasiveness, we would not even be talking about him because he would have been roundly rejected by the very people that he was trying to persuade. The people simply wanted anyone to do something. The idea that we could never elect someone who might do something dangerous (like give us universal health-care) is mind-boggling. Wait, didn’t someone write a book about this in the 40′s?

    [quote]I don’t relish being taxed out of my head, but sensible foreign policy and accountability at the top would go a long way to atleast restoring some equilibrium.[/quote]

    So taxing us to death for a bad foreign policy is somehow more evil than taxing us to death for a bad domestic policy? Personally, I’d rather be taxed to death for a bad foreign policy than have someone telling me that I have to buy health insurance. At least with a bad foreign policy there is a chance that everything will come crashing down on us in a short period of time. A bad domestic policy will simply allow for a drawn-out collapse.

    Comment by Justin Bowen — February 22, 2008 @ 8:58 am

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