Friday, February 8, 2008

And Obama Wept

I have to admit that in recent weeks I've been feeling more and more uncomfortable with the tone of the Barack Obama campaign and his fervent followers. I'm beginning to see parallels between them and fervent Bush worshippers.

The Obama crowd may not be so overtly denominational as the Bush group is, but it does seem very much like the "oh-so-nuage" styles of Joel Osteen, Tony Robbins, or Robert Schuller, very heavy on the vague "power of positive thinking" stuff while lacking detail on the issues. Apparently I'm not the only one, as Jake Tapper of ABC shows us.

Sure, Obama is a hugely talented orator and quite the handsome fellow too. I even find a very pleasing quality in his voice, a very welcome change from Dubya, who affects me like 1000 fingernails simultaneously scratching blackboards. "Charismatic" is probably a fair description for Obama, I think. I enjoy hearing him speak just like many others do. But I keep waiting for him to put all that vague stuff away and start dealing with policy and issues.

Sure, after the last 16 years of right-wing toxicity who wouldn't want a change? But it seem to me that's a foregone conclusion. I want to know exactly what's planned to make this change. So far I've paid most attention to what he's been saying about civil rights and health insurance, and I've not been impressed when he becomes a little bit specific.

And Obama Wept

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."

Joe Klein,
writing at Time, notes "something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism" he sees in Obama's Super Tuesday speech.

"We are the ones we've been waiting for," Obama said. "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."

Says Klein: "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."

The always interesting James Wolcott writes that "(p)erhaps 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."

Then 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