Coming to Obama

Coming to Obama

Melanie recounted to me the gist of a blog post or article she read to me lately that talked about how a hypothetical future American dictator would come in a uniquely American guise. It would not be a Hitler or a Castro or a Stalin, but wrapped in the American flag and convincing the electorate to put him (or her!) in power to solve all our ills, using vague, but reassuring language.

This blog post at the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web Today put me in mind of that conversation. It starts talking about a new YouTube video made in homage of Barack Obama.

The video, which you can watch here, depicts people who appear to be in some sort of trance as they mouth along with Obama’s various rhetorical flourishes from his speeches, then repeat the mantra “Yes, we can.” The whole thing has the feel of a cult of personality.

We aren’t the first to make that observation. The other day one Kathleen Geier, who says she voted for Obama and considers him “a good progressive,” took to the liberal TPMCafe site to declare that she is “increasingly weirded out by some of Obama’s supporters”

Then they offer some quotes from the Sacramento Bee:

“He looked at me, and the look in his eyes was worth 1,000 words,” said [Kim] Mack, now a regional field organizer. Obama hugged her and whispered something in her ear—she was so thrilled she doesn’t remember what it was… .

She urged volunteers to hone their own stories of how they came to Obama—something they could compress into 30 seconds on the phone.

That’s religious language, like someone would talk about how they “came to Jesus.” Other liberals are also becoming increasingly wary of the language of their fellow-travelers on the left about the senator from Illinois.

Does this mean that I think Obama is a potential dictator? Not necessarily. I do think that if such a person were to come to power one day, he would be put there by those who are blinded by his rhetoric and whipped into an emotional fervor and blinded by vague calls for “change” and he will have instilled in them the hope that he will fix all their problems with grand promises wrapped in patriotic images of the US Constitution and heroic Americans.


Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Mr. B,
    If you sniff a hint of a dictator coming to power by our own hand, work your way back to and through FATHER ELIJAH.

  • Funny, the same critique has been made of the political hagiography of the current President (eg, progress/84.jpg), and his acceleration of the concentration of executive power and privilege that has been gathering for 60 years of a national security state is contitutionally destablizing – this country can no longer fight mid-size wars* because the executive is no longer sufficiently tied to popular support that is necessary to sustain them for years. Right now we need a major realignment of powers among the 3 branches, for much more checks, balances and accountability (the lack of which has largely served Congress’s interests in never being held accountable itself, but I digress). Obama in that context is hardly a special herald of messianic politics.

    * A big war (WW2) is relatively more straightforward to sustain popular support for over time, but even those have major dips in support. A small war that is quick needn’t rely on too much popular support. Midsize wars are, however, where most future action will be.

  • No, Liam, no hagiography of Bush has even approached the religious fervor of this or this.

    The latter is a blog cataloging all of the messianic language related to Obama being printed. The main difference, I think, is that those who extol Bush praise him for his professed Christian faith (rightly or wrongly), but don’t lose sight of his place in the hierarchy of things, whereas those praising Obama in the linked articles have placed him on an even higher pedestal.

    Consider this quote from the first link:

    For a long time now, I have listened to [people who don’t support Barack Obama] with forbearance and with a sense of duty — not to some principle of open debate or of the inherent merit in the free exchange of even meritless ideas, but rather out of obligation to the candidate whose cause I champion.

    So he only puts up with dissenters because Obama would want it. And what if Obama wanted him not to abide by the presence of such dissent? Such mindless devotion of a politician is what scares me, no matter who the actual politician is, whether it’s directed at Bush or Obama.

    Your other points on national defense and the alignment of powers are not irrelevant, but are tangential. I think the drawdown of forces post-Cold War is more responsible for our inability to fight big wars, while an argument could be made that we’re even now creating a generation of veteran mid-level officers and NCOs with combat experience.

    As for the erosion of checks and balances, I don’t disagree at all on that.

  • Oh, Dom, you obviously haven’t seen the many different blogs that have treated the current President as God’s ordained vicar for the US. I don’t keep of track of them, only that I’ve tried to figure out how many were parodies only to discover that they weren’t.  Rather mind blowing.

    But political messianism has long roots in the US, at least to Huey Long and arguably to William Jennings Bryan and others. Whereever you find charismatic Christianity married to politics (for the past generation or two, that has been a marriage leaning rightward, but it used to tilt otherwise in earlier generations), you will find it. (Mercifully, Catholicism in the US (unlike in some other countries) has largely been free from political personality cults, and long may it remain so.)

    Interestingly, the liberal secular press (other than TV pundit hogs whose job it is to ride whatever enthusiasm boosts ratings*) has been pretty on top of casting cold water on Obama messianism.

    * The reason Ann Coulter doesn’t want a McCain presidency is because she’d lose business – the job of loyal-but-sharptongued internal GOP opposition is already far more ably filled by Pat Buchanan. Coulter needs a Democratic president like oxygen. Other talk show jocks have similar needs – whatever bleeds, as it were, leads, for them.

  • But this isn’t just some frintge wacky blogs. This is mainstream media and major political operatives. And it’s not just “He who comes to do God’s will” but something a little more, especially when you consider that many of these people don’t actually believe in God.

  • Dom

    I hear you but I am not persuaded this is as deep (YET) as what has happened over the past several years with President Bush in other parts of the country and other demographics (I only cited blogs for convenience – it’s not just blogs – Bush has a whole TV network (FOX*) virtually deveoted to streaming his message, whereas Obama has major skeptics on all the networks), as it were, and has yet to approach anything like it. So far, this seems very shallow and ephemeral.

    * Which now FOX is going to have to regret its lack of diversification.

  • Oh come on, tell me you’re not one of those people who think that Fox is nothing but an arm of the Bush White House. That’s utter nonsense and undermines the rest of what you say, not to mention there is nothing on Fox that approaches the deification of Obama elsewhere.

    I hear more criticism of Bush on Fox’s talk shows than I hear criticism of Obama on all the other networks combined.

  • The quote comes from a book called “It Can’t appen Here” by I believe Upton Sinclair, written as a wake up call to Americans who believed their freedoms were secured by government. “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in an American flag and carrying a cross.”

    Wake up and smell the fascism now – in 2008 !

    It has been permeating the air for 7 years now, and one by one our liberties are being stripped from us in the name of “national security” For example,recent

    bills passed which define “Home Grown Terrorism” as anything the government says it is, even if it is just discussion on a blog. Look up “habeus corpus” and discover that we no longer have a right to that. Look up “warrentless searches” and “phone tapping” and see what is happening.

    In May 2008 if you live in a state which has challenged the government’s Real ID Act, you will be detained at airports and put through special screening. By 2011 you will be required to carry your National ID at all times. The FBI contiunues to build an international date base of our information. Read Rev. 13 and understand that the mark of the beast will be ushered in under this so called “security”.

    And for goodness sakes, stop watching network or cable news unless you enjoy being lied to and want to drink the kool aid with the rest of this sleeping nation.