Monday, February 11, 2008

The Obama Cult

Is it time to break out the Kool-Aid? I think so, and I'm not alone. From First Things:

A cult can be defined as a tight knit group of people who devote themselves to a charismatic leader who promises to solve all their personal or social problems by the power of his personality. Given that definition, I would argue that the Obama campaign has all the marks of a cult.

First, Obama promises to solve the problem of politics. People attracted to his campaign think that he can transcend the ordinary negotiations and conflicts of the political realm just by the force of his powerful optimism. If the political itself is the problem, and not the various social problems that must be negotiated within the political arena, then Obama himself is the answer. Somehow, magically, he will create a new political space that will save us from having to fight or even disagree with each other. And politician who promises to put an end to politics must be subjected to the most stringent skepticism. What they want to put an end to, of course, is the politics they disagree with, while wrapping their own politics in a rhetoric of consensus and optimism.


Just talk to anyone who supports Obama. They will say that he does have policy positions, but they will also say that he transcends all the typical policy options. Most importantly, they will talk about how Obama makes them feel. They will say that Obama represents the future, that he can heal the country, that he will create a new unity in America. And they will look a bit glassy eyed as they tell you all of this. Don’t argue with them. It is impossible to argue rationally with a member of a cult. Don’t even compare Hilary to Obama, because, like all cult members, they hate their rivals. Just be as clear eyed as you can, and pray that Obama does not get elected—not because he claims to transcend politics, which is merely empty rhetoric, but because, like all liberals, when he says he is transcending left vs. right, he is really being more leftist than ever. He wants to replace arguments over real differences with feelings of good will, and that is the real danger.

I have gotten the feeling that Obama-nation is beyond rational discourse, where image and everything else ephemeral is valued more than anything actually substantive.

David Brooks has noticed it as well:

Obama’s people are so taken with their messiah that soon they’ll be selling flowers at airports and arranging mass weddings. There’s a “Yes We Can” video floating around YouTube in which a bunch of celebrities like Scarlett Johansson and the guy from the Black Eyed Peas are singing the words to an Obama speech in escalating states of righteousness and ecstasy. If that video doesn’t creep out normal working-class voters, then nothing will.

I guess I have a normal-working class voters take on life as well because, unlike some folks, it creeped the hell out of me too.

I'm sorry, but I already have a savior, and even if I were looking for a new one I'm sure I wouldn't find it in a politician from Illinois.


Justin Gardner said...

Rich, come on man...this is thin gruel at best. I respect that you think it's creepy, but don't call his supporters a cult. That's silly. The guy is able to motivate and inspire. Isn't that supposed to be a good thing?

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Then show me something worth getting inspired by. Look, I'm not alone in finding the whole "movement" a little disturbing. The American political process is messy and it certainly isn't genteel sometimes...but I dont want it to be "transcended". It is messy and rough around the edges because there are important differences being hashed out...which is the very definition of politics. Obama's tack is to define HIS policy preferences as being the only "legitimate" preferences...everything else is "attack politics" and thus illegitimate.

And yes its a little cult-like to want to replace political realism with "Yes we can" sing-a-long-ism.

Alright Justin, maybe you personally are not dancing around with flowers in your hair...but plenty of other people are.

Anonymous said...

I also find it quite it disconcerting--the whole thing seems to have a messianic quality to it, which Ted Kennedy exacerbated by "anointing" him as the successor. I understand that even Sorenson (JFK's old speech writer) is now on the bandwagon and writing his speeches.

I wonder what is the shelf life of an infatuation this intense? I'm comforting myself with the likelihood that it would flame out pretty quickly, but I don't know... Obviously, the closer Hillary comes to losing, the uglier this thing will get. But Obama is holding a really good hand right now. Even if he winds up losing the delegate count, I think he can steal the nomination from HRC at the convention. I wonder how his followers will react when he eventually loses?

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Oh and Obama will do anything and everything to get the nomination if he is behind in delagates going into the convention.

Remember: Clinton using superdelagates and party insiders to win the nomination is bad.

Obama doing the same thing is good.

See how it all works out perfectly??

Now shake that tambourine!

Anonymous said...

LOVED YOUR PIECE. I hated Obama-mania since day 1.

Now, there are some *powerful forces at play here. Some powerful psychological forces.

And as far as the cult thing- YOU LEFT OUT GUILT! Yes, cults often use guilt, and *shedding of guilt/ redemption* through GROUP CONFESSIONS. They often force members to confess horrible things (white guilt/racism, in this case) in front of the group, and be "healed" through shame.

SO, DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF (WHITE) GUILT in the manipulators hand. Psychologically, very powerful stuff. Not a joke.

2. Also, like you indicated, Obama and Obama supporters (by extension, they have picked up his personality) are PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE. They don't attack (well, actually they have, but cover it up by saying THEY AREN'T ATTACKING because they are such nice people they'd never do such a thing). They just say anyone who disagrees is a "mean-spirited" "desperate" person making "smears"= bringing up FACTS.

3. The video. Yeah, one of these least talented of all black musicians (i'm more of jimi hendrix girl, or in rap- outkast)...WHAT A SICKENING, DISTURBING, ORWELLIAN CONFLUENCE OF BIG* $ CORPORATE media MONEY and XXXtreme left-wing politics. Very scary stuff. Very scary times. What's funny is that they mistakenly made the video about 80% black people (America has only 13% blacks), and they made this *white latino do a black power salute and say "Si Se Pueda" (= the mexican illegal alien chant, "yes we can!" being english translation).

SOOO PRETENTIOUS. Middle School baby!

What was sickening were the photos/frontpage of his website while he was campaigning in South Carolina- he was MADE TO LOOK LIKE JESUS. He was posed as Jesus. Literally. It looked like some tacky shit you'd see on a "creflo dollar" black church website. Although I hate to admit it, "creflo dollar" is a very charismatic preacher. I catch myself listening to him, sometimes, half asleep at 4. am.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

I'm just waiting for the "Obama Walking On Water" ad...or the "Doubting Thomas" ad where a former Hillary backer begins to see the light and is "saved" by the mere sound of his voice or the touch of his hand.

And liberals complain about televangelists being over the top?? They could learn a thing or two from Obama Inc.