Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Adult Advice for Obamamaniacs

If you are a Barack Obama supporter, do you find yourself expecting not only a new kind of politics after he is elected President, but a new form of democracy as we know it, even a new kind of humanity, not only here but around the world!?

If so, please take this in the non-partisan spirit in which it is intended. You need a bucket of cold water. You need to snap out of it. When you come back to reality, you may fall with such a crash that you end up irrecoverably bitter and cynical for the rest of your life, perhaps even Republican.

So heed these warnings from sober friends. David Brooks has written sympathetically about Sen. Obama, and he is always winsome and reasonable. Here is what he says in his column, "Questions for Dr. Retail" (New York Times, February 8, 2008).
Obama offers to defeat cynicism with hope. Apparently he’s going to turn politics into a form of sharing. Have you noticed that he’s actually carried into his rallies by a flock of cherubs while the heavens open up with the Hallelujah Chorus? I wonder how he does that. ...
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.
Actually, I don't find the video creepy at all. But I do find both the candidate and his hip celebrity boosters extremely naive. O course, you can expect to find this quality in pop singers and their young fans, but it's inexcusable in a 46-year-old United States Senator who could be our next President.
He says, "Yes we can heal this nation," and "We are not as divided as our politics suggests." But does he have a record of efforts to "heal" the nation and close the "divide" in his time as Senator from Illinois? Has he even co-sponsored a bill with John McCain? Not at all. In fact, he has an extremely liberal voting record. That doesn't heal anything with me, and I'm temperamentally predisposed to like people if I can. During the campaign he has spoken very disparagingly of the sitting President and of Republicans in general. Where's the love? Where's the healing? Where's the change in that? I don't see a bi-partisan cross section of America singing in the video. I see lots of young lefties whom I don't want to see anywhere near the White House.
He goes as far as to say not only that we can "heal this nation," but that "Yes we can repair the world." What does that mean? Peace is going to blanket not only this nation but the whole world? Is the world in conflict only because the United States cannot be trusted, i.e. because American governments have been cynical, exploitative and imperialistic? Once they see a Man of Hope in the White House, a man of genuinely good intentions, we will be able to disband the C.I.A. and reduce the armed forces to search and rescue proportions?

He offers moving appeals for "hope" in the possibility of "change" if we would only believe that "we can." But when you look at his actual policy proposals for how we get from here to the change, they are little different from those of his comparably far left liberal opponent. He warns his audience against the "chorus of cynics" who call his intoxicated followers to a "reality check." But isn't that the sort of reasonable counsel that you expect from a sober adult?
What I see in this speech is high schooler idealism of the sort based solely on inexperience and adolescent passions. He should be better than that. So I conclude that he is either a fool or a charlatan. Which one is the more charitable judgment? Remember, he's a successful politician. Joe Klein, in "Inspiration vs. Substance" (TIME, February 7, 2008), also uses the word "creepy" as well as "disingenuous."
...there was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism — "We are the ones we've been waiting for" — of the Super Tuesday speech and the recent turn of the Obama campaign. "This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different. It's different not because of me. It's different because of you." That is not just maddeningly vague but also disingenuous: the campaign is entirely about Obama and his ability to inspire.
The electorate seems strangely open to charlatans this elections season. See "Are We Doomed to an Idiot Election?"

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