Thursday, January 10, 2008
O-Bama, Hey-Bama, Bama-Bama, O!
Bama-Hay, Bama-O, Ba-ma!
One of the things that's bothered me about the Obama campaign -- which on the whole has pleased me a great deal -- is the growing messianic quality of it. In American politics, any messianic politician is a potential danger to our ruling classes, and one who will be watched very carefully. If he rises too high in messianic fervor, he will be "taken care of." As they say.
I hate to be so cynical, but that has been our history. Again. And again. And again.
Of course, Obama's personal safety has been a concern of many for as long as he has been running for the Presidency. This nation has a long and shameful history of dealing with Uppity Negroes (and Women, but we'll get to that in another post) that everybody knows and nobody wants to talk about. Whether Obama is immune due to his African as opposed to his American Negro heritage, remains to be seen. Up till very recently he's taken more grief for his supposed religious heritage and upbringing and his Muslim name than for his race. Some would call that Progress. I laugh. I laugh to scorn. No, it's a substitution. Because Muslims are the sub-humans du jour, calling him a Muslim is a way to avoid calling him an N-word. At some point, you've got to recognize the equivalence of the slurs. They are the same damb thing.
But I was watching some of the coverage of the Obama campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire and New Jersey, and I was struck by how much Mr. Obama is coming across as a Preacher now, and how passionate his devotees are. They seem to be in a kind of religious ecstacy, and Obama seems to be encouraging their fervent belief -- in him, yes, but in his Message, even more than him. Oh man.
You just know where this is leading, and it's not necessarily a good place. It ought to be a good place. But we've been down this path before. And it frequently doesn't turn out well.
Hillary's "upset" victory in New Hampshire may have put a temporary damper on Obamamania, but I don't expect it (or her, for that matter) to squash his campaign, or in fact affect it in any substantial way. I have the feeling he believes he's got the formula that works, and she's still trying to find one.
Paul Rosenberg has an interesting discussion of the populist appeal of Barack Obama's campaign over at Open Left (h/t bystander), and he posits something I think is true: Obama himself and his policy prescriptions are in a classic Progressive mold, at least to the extent that he makes any specific proposals -- which has long been noted he doesn't much. But Obama's presentation is fully Populist, in the long tradition of American Populism. This is somewhat at variance with Obama's supporter demographic which tends to skew strongly toward the elites. (Reminds me a lot of Dean supporters. I don't think I ever saw such a collection of PhDs, LLDs, MDs, JDs, and other assorted Doctors of This and That, and all kinds of other professionals, concentrated in one campaign in my life. They were, by no means, your Ordinary Joe SixPacks.)
On the other hand, John Edwards, who is running as fully a Populist campaign as one can run these days, doesn't seem to have the personal appeal that Obama does, and so, despite Edwards's policy prescriptions that most closely reflect the needs and aspirations of America's 80%, his campaign seems to be faltering. Media neglect is only part of the problem Edwards faces.
According to some statistics, it is Hillary who is actually attracting the more or less Populist leaning voters. Rosenberg gets into this aspect, too, but it has been heavily mentioned in most of the analysis of the New Hampshire Democratic vote.
But back to my original point: Messianic campaigns tend not to turn out well in America.
Let's hope Obama's is an exception.