I have written here a few times in recent days about of the hype around the Obama “movement” as he calls it and the fact many people don’t want to “join” a “movement,” they want a leader. In some ways, I have told a few people in conversation off The Dem Daily, the Obama “movement” reminds me of the Dean “movement” in ’04, another movement I was not swayed to join.
It’s not that I don’t see the attraction he holds for some, I just personally feel it leaves me cold. I’m not a joiner, I’m an independent think, a leader not a follower. When someone pushes me to join or participate in something that involves group think, I tend to run the other way, so perhaps that is why I never caught the Obama fever.
I’m glad to see the media and others in the blogosphere are catching on to the “fact that some Obama supporters’ exhuberance seems to be getting a little out of hand.” In a spot on and snarky post on ABC’s Political Punch, Jake Tapper writes:
Inspiration is nice. But some folks seem to be getting out of hand.
It’s as if Tom Daschle descended from on high saying, “Be not afraid; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of Chicago a Savior, who is Barack the Democrat.”
Obama supporter Kathleen Geier writes that she’s “getting increasingly weirded out by some of Obama’s supporters. On listservs I’m on, some people who should know better – hard-bitten, not-so-young cynics, even – are gushing about Barack…
Describing various encounters with Obama supporters, she writes, “Excuse me, but this sounds more like a cult than a political campaign. The language used here is the language of evangelical Christianity – the Obama volunteers speak of ‘coming to Obama’ in the same way born-again Christians talk about ‘coming to Jesus.’…So I say, we should all get a grip, stop all this unseemly mooning over Barack, see him and the political landscape he is a part of in a cooler, clearer, and more realistic light, and get to work.”
And Joe Klein, who also makes a comparison to the Dean campaign as I have above, notes:
And yet 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. Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause — other than an amorphous desire for change — the message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.
That is not unprecedented. It has echoes of Howard Dean’s 2004 primary effort, although in Dean’s case the propellant was substance, not rhetoric — the candidate’s early courageous voice against the war. But Dean soon found that wasn’t enough. In June 2003 he told me he needed to broaden his movement, reach out past the young and the academic and find a greater array of issues that could inspire working people. He never quite found that second act, and his campaign became about process, not substance: the hundreds of thousands of supporters signing up on the Internet, the millions of dollars raised. He lost track of the rest of the world; his campaign was about … his campaign. […]
Obama’s strength is inspiration, and it’s also his weakness. In the recent past, Democrats have favored candidates who offer meaty, detailed policy prescriptions — usually to the party’s detriment — and that is not Obama’s game. […]
There is an odd, anachronistic formality to Obama’s stump speech: it is always the same. It sets his audiences afire, but it does not reach very far beyond them. It is no accident that Obama is nearly invincible in caucus states, where the ability to mobilize a hard core of activists is key — but not so strong in primaries, where more diverse masses of people are involved. He should be very worried that this nomination is likely to be decided in the big working-class primary states of Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania.
James Wolcott writes chimes in saying:
Perhaps it’s my atheism at work but I found myself increasingly wary of and resistant to the salvational fervor of the Obama campaign, the idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria. I can picture President Hillary in the White House dealing with a recalcitrant Republican faction; I can’t picture President Obama in the same role because his summons to history and call to hope seems to transcend legislative maneuvers and horse-trading; his charisma is on a more ethereal plane, and I don’t look to politics for transcendence and self-certification.
Finally, Jake Tapper notes:
…there’s MSNBC’s Chris Matthews who tells Felix Gillette in the New York Observer, “I’ve been following politics since I was about 5. I’ve never seen anything like this. This is bigger than Kennedy. [Obama] comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament.”
And behold, Obama met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.
The Holy Season of Lent is upon us. Can Obama worshippers try to give up their Helter-Skelter cult-ish qualities for a few weeks?
At least until Easter, or the Pennsylvania primary, whichever comes first…
Will Bunch notes that “There’s a legitimate debate to be had whether Barack Obama is the entire package — including his policy positions and his experience — to become the 44th president of the United States,” but he says faulting Tapper and Joe Klein, “no one should be unhappy about bringing some excitement and some passion into the great American debate — unless of course you belong the Gang of 500, and then you see a mob outside the gates of the Bastille.”
I don’t get, to be frank, that anyone is unhappy about the fact that Obama brings “some excitement and some passion” into the mix. For those of us who are increasingly turned off by Obama’s rhetoric and platitudes, there is something undeniably disconcerting about hearing him talk consistently about the “movement” rather than the platform. We’re looking for a leader not a preacher. If we wanted a preacher, we could vote for Huckabee.