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February 01, 2010

The Rise and Fall of Barack Hussein Obama

Good read.

Central thesis: Obama represented a departure from normal politics. The American public was invited to do something they either never have done before or have done so only once or twice (Washington, FDR): Join a cult of personality, where policy is only secondary to a quasi-religious faith in a single man.

The curtain has come down on what can best be described as a brief un-American moment in our history. That moment began in the fall of 2008, with the great financial panic, and gave rise to the Barack Obama phenomenon.

The nation's faith in institutions and time-honored ways had cracked. In a little-known senator from Illinois millions of Americans came to see a savior who would deliver the nation out of its troubles. Gone was the empiricism in political life that had marked the American temper in politics. A charismatic leader had risen in a manner akin to the way politics plays out in distressed and Third World societies.

There is nothing surprising about where Mr. Obama finds himself today. He had been made by charisma, and political magic, and has been felled by it. If his rise had been spectacular, so, too, has been his fall. The speed with which some of his devotees have turned on him—and their unwillingness to own up to what their infatuation had wrought—is nothing short of astounding. But this is the bargain Mr. Obama had made with political fortune.

He was a blank slate, and devotees projected onto him what they wanted or wished. In the manner of political redeemers who have marked—and wrecked—the politics of the Arab world and Latin America, Mr. Obama left the crowd to its most precious and volatile asset—its imagination. There was no internal coherence to the coalition that swept him to power. There was cultural "cool" and racial absolution for the white professional classes who were the first to embrace him. There was understandable racial pride on the part of the African-American community that came around to his banners after it ditched the Clinton dynasty.

The white working class had been slow to be convinced. The technocracy and elitism of Mr. Obama's campaign—indeed of his whole persona—troubled that big constituency, much more, I believe, than did his race and name. The promise of economic help, of an interventionist state that would salvage ailing industries and provide a safety net for the working poor, reconciled these voters to a candidate they viewed with a healthy measure of suspicion. He had been caught denigrating them as people "clinging to their guns and religion," but they had forgiven him.

Mr. Obama himself authored the tale of his own political crisis. He had won an election, but he took it as a plebiscite granting him a writ to remake the basic political compact of this republic.

Mr. Obama's self-regard, and his reading of his mandate, overwhelmed all restraint. The age-old American balance between a relatively small government and a larger role for the agencies of civil society was suddenly turned on its head. Speed was of the essence to the Obama team and its allies, the powerful barons in Congress. Better ram down sweeping social programs—a big liberal agenda before the people stirred to life again.

Progressives pressed for a draconian attack on the workings of our health care, and on the broader balance between the state and the marketplace. The economic stimulus, ObamaCare, the large deficits, the bailout package for the automobile industry—these, and so much more, were nothing short of a fundamental assault on the givens of the American social compact.

Read the whole thing.



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posted by Ace at 01:39 PM

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