The cult of Obama
Do you think voting for Barack Obama is like losing your virginity?
Have you ever wished your president was as cool as your favorite movie star? Or even worse, thought that he was?
Are you looking for a commander-in-chief who will help you lead a government-subsidized Life of Julia?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, Gene Healy has some helpful advice for you: Please get a life.
Perhaps instead of voting Tuesday, it would be more therapeutic to read Healy’s new ebook, “False Idol: Barack Obama and The Continuing Cult of the Presidency.” It may just cure you of your belief that politicians can bring hope, which is as dangerous as any addiction to dope.
However un-American, worshiping the president is nothing new. I’ll admit I’m a bit of a Reagan idolator myself. But no presidential candidate in recent memory traded so much on his rock star status as Obama.
He gave grown men thrills up their legs. People still get angry at the suggestion that there is something fanciful about Obama’s “halt the rise of the oceans” hubris. Look at the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, they say.
Fittingly, Obama’s latest bounce in the pre-election polls comes as a result of his Sandy cleanup tour.
Healy, a vice president at the libertarian Cato Institute, is no partisan. He wrote the original book-length “The Cult of the Presidency” while George W. Bush was in office, expanding executive power and waging war.
At least back then people took to the streets protesting on behalf of their civil liberties.
Obama has kept most of those new executive powers, adding a few kill lists and some indefinite detention for good measure. Crickets chirp.
The Benghazi debacle aside, Obama’s war of choice in Libya hasn’t cost as much American blood and treasure as Bush’s in Iraq. But Bush’s was authorized by Congress. Obama’s was not. In announcing his “kinetic military action,” Obama’s use of first-person singular pronouns called to mind the very king-like qualities the Framers sought to guard against when vesting in Congress the power to declare war:
I made it clear that Qadhafi had lost the confidence of his people….
I said that he needed to step down from power….
I ordered warships….
I refused to let that happen….
I authorized military action….
I refused to wait….
The task that I assigned our forces….
I will never hesitate….
The Obama administration has also been uniquely indifferent to what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons” of civil society. From the HHS contraception mandate on religious employers to the response to the “you didn’t build that” flap, Team Obama’s vision is without mediating institutions between government and individuals being left on their own.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat notes their weirdly paternalistic pitch in which women are “forever single girls and the president is their father, lover, fiancé and paladin all rolled into one.”
Indeed, Obama presents himself as the only mediating institution between us and religious fanatics or heartless corporations.
No mediator between the people and government needs apply.
Yet no matter how the election turns out, Healy gives us some good news: Obama’s inadequacy has helped to deflate the cult of the presidency. “The bloom is off the rose,” he writes. He notes that the artist behind the iconic blue and red Obama “Hope” poster became disillusioned: “Obama was the delivery device in theory. Now, I realize that he maybe is not the correct delivery device.”
Many a rehabilitation process has begun with this realization.
The bikini-clad “Obama Girl” has also found her crush waning. “I want this country to be better,” she said. “I want everyone to have jobs and for gas prices to go down.”
It’s tempting to blame Obamaphilia alone, but if Mitt Romney is elected the same unrealistic hopes and predictable disappointments will occur, despite his relative personal modesty.
Maybe it’s time to cut the presidency, along with the rest of the federal government, back down to its constitutional size. “Can we look past the man who holds the office and consider the possibility that our problem is the office, not the man?” Healy asks.
It’s a good question. Until we can honestly answer it in the affirmative, we will have people not only pinning their hopes and dreams on Obama and his would-be successors, but also making excuses for their growing list of failures.
If that applies to you, well, as Obama cultist Samuel L. Jackson might put it, “Wake the f–k up.”
W. James Antle III is the editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow him on Twitter.