Friday, April 11, 2008

When will the Obama cult end?

This spring? This summer? This November?

It's clear that Hillary Clinton is the better of the two Democratic candidates for the general election in November, and the primary voters seem to agree with this. She has won all but one of the big states (including her almost-certain victory in Pennsylvania coming up) and all of the swing states the Dems will need in November. Obama's entire primary vote lead came from his home district of Cook County, Illinois. If the Dems had more rational primary rules, like the Republicans, she would already be the nominee. The weird inability of Dem primary voters to make the full weight of their voice heard is what's allowing the media and the left wing of the party to "wag the dog," so to speak. This is likely to be the Democrats' final opportunity for the forseeable future to have a large impact on national politics, and they seem determined to blow it.

Obama has on his side an extraordinary alliance of the left wing of the Democratic party and the media, which seem determined to get him nominated. Let's go over this again: He's the most underqualified candidate to run for President in a long time. His political "movement" smacks more of a cult than anything else. Given his views, which are to the left of Clinton and which he tries hard to hide, he has a poor chance against McCain in November. Without the center and center-left vote Clinton has a better chance of getting, Obama stands no chance of winning the general election. The Democrats, in fact, would have to start thinking about how big the loss will be: not just the White House, but one or both houses of Congress as well. The defections will be fatal and leave the Party in a shape similar to what it was like after 1972 or 1984.

The complaints about Bush, his inexperience and provinciality, were well-founded seven or eight years ago. They hold with much more force for Obama. In spite of his talk of "restoring" America's reputation, he's a foreign-policy lightweight, at best - it's more about restoring some fantasy shared by, say, Ted Turner and George Soros. His obvious ignorance of foreign trade and the Middle East make his noises about these issues laughable. With leadership on trade and other international issues, Bush looks profound by comparison. Obama has in addition the heavy political baggage of the people he's chosen to associate with. All of these problems will become far worse in the general election, no matter how hard to media tries to distract people. That only works for so long.

Of course, the Democrats were always going to have a hard time this year: they're no longer running against Bush. Early on, they eliminated their most qualified candidates and, instead, gave us the spectacle of empty identity politics and exceptionally slick levels of political cynicism - more obviously from Clinton, less obviously but even more disturbingly from Obama - that leave any outside observer with a simple conclusion: the Democratic party is politically and morally bankrupt. Its putative base continues to shrink, and an Obama nomination will accelerate the shrinkage and defections to the point that the Dems may cease to be a viable national party at all. Once a forward-looking optimistic bunch, the Dems have become a strange collection of panicked, self-hating rubes.

The cult of Obama feeds on a number of things, including a surprising amount of misogyny. But more than anything, it is the desperation of liberals that makes them prone to bad choices. Democrats can look back on over fifty years and not see (with one exception) a successful Democratic presidency since Truman left office in 1953. The turning point was undoubtedly the awful day in November 1963 that started the liberal "unhingement." The JFK presidency left an ambiguous legacy; Johnson began with great success and ended as a failure. Carter was just a failure. Clinton's second term, after a failed first term, is the only bright spot for the Democrats in half a century - but it came at the price of Clinton's adopting some of the most conservative Democratic policies since - well - Grover Cleveland. This left liberals in the strange position of being ready to do anything to defend Clinton personally but hating his policies. The consequences were bad for the Dems. In 2000, Gore, instead of sensibly running on Clintonism but keeping Clinton at arm's length, ran a bizarre pseudo-populist campaign spooked by the fringe candidacies of Bradley and Nader to his left. The same logic was at work in the fringe Dean candidacy in 2003, heavily promoted by the media and the left wing of the party, and only ended when the primary voters had their say.

The Democrats need to think long and hard before they continue down the road with the Obama cult, drink the Kool-Aid, walk over the cliff - or whatever other cult metaphors you want to use. Cinnamon Stillwell has this to say: "He's not the Second Coming, you know" - but according to some, he is apparently the First :)

When will the Obama cult end? Maybe when Clinton wins in Pennsylvania ... nah. The cult will end when the media lose interest.

POSTSCRIPT: I missed this column by Robert Samuelson in February, but it's worth reading.

A detailed article on Obama's early career, including more disturbing material about the Reverend Wright (see page 8), from the New Republic.

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