The Obama Cult?

Barack Obama has often been described as inspirational. Some of his detractors have applied the Rove tactic of directly attacking the opponent’s strengths, twisting his inspirational nature to create fear that the Obama campaign is some sort of cult. The pro-Clinton bloggers have been pushing this meme for a while. Generally if something is repeated often enough in the blogosphere there will be a reporter who will believe he can use the idea for an article. Jack Tapper picked up on this today. At least, even if the quality of his journalism might not always be top notch, he spreads the nonsense attacks around between the campaigns. Perhaps this is his attempt to redeem himself for his inaccurate reports on Bill Clinton last week.

A lot of people support Barack Obama, and I imagine that some of them are writing things which sound like cultists. With all the blogs and other internet discussion sites I can only read a small percentage. Maybe I’ve been lucky and have only encountered the better material, but most of what I read from Obama supporters is based upon rational comparisons of the candidates without using the type of religious fervor Tapper describes. Even those I see which do border on such an attitude are no more irrational than those who back Clinton because of her non-existent superior experience or purely because she is female.

For many of us who support Obama it was a process of elimination. Back when there was a whole line up of candidates, there were some candidates who I felt I could support and others who I did not believe would make a good president. In this process of presidential Survivor, Hillary Clinton was one of the first that many wanted to vote off the island. If there was any doubt, the manner in which she resorted to dishonest smears and race baiting was the final straw in getting many to support Obama over Clinton. To most of us Obama is not the Messiah. He is just one of several potential candidates to survive the process to oppose a candidate we do not find acceptable. Others find both candidates to be acceptable, but for a variety of reasons prefer Obama.

There are many different reasons why people prefer Obama. While the conventional wisdom is that there is not much difference between Obama and Clinton on the issues, I have noted a pattern on the issues which makes me find Obama to be far preferable to Clinton. I have discussed these differences here. The character issue is also important to myself and probably even more people than those who are deciding based upon issues. I have noted these differences in many posts, and this is summarized well by Lawrence Lessig in a post from earlier today.

While it is generally issues which sway me in an election, I know very well that it is often not on issues where an election is won. Contrary to the view often spread by Clinton supporters, Obama has often been quite specific in his views and proposals. When he has done so, I have found his proposals to be far superior to those advocated by Clinton. However, most people do not review such proposals at length and this is not what influences many voters. Obama realizes that he will pick up far more votes by being inspirational than by being a policy wonk when speaking in public. Many find this to be a virtue in itself, believing it will take an inspirational politician using the bully pulpit of the White House to accomplish progressive goals.

This does not mean that there is no substance to Obama’s talk of change. We saw why we need change in politics when Hillary Clinton resorted to Swift Boat tactics against Obama. It is my fear that the same dishonesty seen in Clinton’s campaign will be seen in a government led by Hillary Clinton. It is my hope that the same integrity demonstrated as he refused to lower himself to Clinton’s level will also be seen in a government led by Barack Obama.When Obama supporters speak of being inspired by the candidate, this is not just empty talk. Obama supporters often can provide concrete examples. A few days ago I read this one, with the following video showing what the blogger was impressed by:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCnX_Ysij1o]

In response to seeing this at a rally in Boston, an Obama supporter wrote:

On Feb 4th in Boston, Barack Obama proved to me how truly different he is. During the section of the speech where he repeatedly points out how hard it will be to change and transform our country and selves, he was critiquing how fear drives politics and how Democrats, in reaction to that, have often adopted those tactics.

When a supporter yelled out, “You mean Hillary” at that moment Barack could have piled on and given the crowd the veiled anti-Hillary one-liners it wanted. But instead, he said, “No, because it’s more extensive than that, sometimes it seeps into my own campaign too. It is habits of mind, habits of heart that we all start engaging in. Because we start thinking this is a game, a contest, we forget the kid who doesn’t have enough to eat…”

When Barack could have “torn down an opponent” (which the crowd would have loved), he instead chose to criticize his own campaign as a way to show how deeply internalized these things are and what he means by, and what he thinks has to, change. A politician opting to criticize himself rather than his opponent so that he could make a more important, broader point. Wow!

So right in the middle of a speech on transformation, in an unscripted, revealing moment, Barack Obama provided a living example of that transformation.

This is a just one example of a supporter finding a true reason to be impressed by Obama as a potentially transformational candidate. This is a view based upon a rational assessment of the candidate, not cultism.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Nelson M. says:

    First, the argument went, ‘yeah he’s a good speaker, but good speakers don’t necessarily make good Presidents.’ Now that that argument has run its course, it’s that he’s such a good speaker that he hypnotizes people into doing things they don’t want.

    This just demonstrates the weakness of their position. Obama’s platform is consistent, his rhetoric is unmatched, and so this is what skeptics are left with.

  2. 2
    jim says:

    i read a post somewhere in which someone described a big difference in the clinton/obama campaigns. from the clinton camps, they talk of how she will fix things, while in the obaba campaign, he explains how WE will fix things. this is huge… rather than being another candidate with all the answers, he is trying to get everyone involved to fix things ourselves.
    i would rather have this type of president, even having him make mistakes, than the standard politician who claims to have all the answers and will fix everything singlehandedly. that is sheer ego and will get us into even a deeper mess… we need a LEADER. thanks!

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