February 5, 2008
Dear Obama GroupiesBy Ian Rock
Dear Obama Groupies:
Looks like you are one of 300,000 or so "Barack Obama" supporters on TheFacebook.com. First, congratulations and thank you all for logging on to the debate. It's great to see so much participation.
Now, let me share something that scares me about you. I have been listening to many of your reasons for supporting Obama. I have watched a good number of interviews on CNN, MSNBC and YouTube to better understand why you think Obama will be great president in 2008, and I keep hearing things like:
Obama fans seem to give you the same general answer. Mostly, it has something to do with this charisma. If you want a good example check out a recent interview George Clooney gave explaining his reason; you get the same JFK personality "thing."
To me, it's like you are all voting for Obama because of some unexplainable aura he exudes. Everyone is swooning over this almost mysterious attraction he exudes. "Electric" is another word I have been hearing. Call it what you will; let's just call it his innate charisma.
I understand that some of you are voting for Obama for reasons other than his charisma. But, as I watch the size of your group swell before my very eyes (literally every refresh shows another five to ten more supporters) I am becoming more alarmed by your thought processes, and less convinced that you know what an Obama presidency will actually look like.
History shows that it was exactly this kind of thinking which allowed charismatic leaders like Adolf Hitler to take power. Extreme? For sure. But, it is a relevant comparison when looking at large groups of people being swayed to act for all the wrong reasons.
I'll name another likeable persona. George W. Bush (Did you ever see Alexandra Pelosi’s documentary Journeys with George?) It was Dub’s personality -- not his ideas -- that beat John Kerry. Remember that image of him quarterbacking the football on the White House lawn. For many, it was this image of being "tough" and " in command" that made a choice a little easier. Many of you may not feel that was a good choice.
When an NBC reporter admitted to Brian Williams that it was hard for him "to stay objective when covering this guy" many others began to wonder about this mysterious Obama magic. This comment was alarming coming from a journalist who we assume is schooled in objectivity! Someone who gets paid to be our watchdog and cut through the b.s.
If Obama is having this effect on our media how do we, as a responsible public, stand a chance in being objective ourselves? Who is going to ask the hard questions? Further, how can democracy survive without objective thinking?
Sadly (for Obama) it all comes down to the race. As much as Obama would like to believe that race is no longer an issue for us voters, it absolutely is an issue, and may even be the source of his charismatic power. Let's play a pretend to see how it works. Pretend that Barack Obama is white. Imagine a white, mostly inexperienced junior senator from Illinois with the exact same ideas and speeches.
Does it have the same effect? Imagine a lanky white candidate with the exact same rhetoric and the exact same calls for "change." Is the image as powerful? Does he seem as attractive to you? Are you even listening?
Barack Obama is able to compensate for his lack of experience by being black. And to me this is a shame, because I think there were a handful of highly qualified Democrats with betters ideas and a whole lot more experience who were out-dazzled by Obama's race.
What I really want is to ask you for a favor. There are a lot of Obama groupies who I know cannot fully explain or articulate their attraction to Obama in terms of real or even imagined policies. If this sounds like your or someone you love, please ask why you are drawn to this man. If your answer has to do with charisma, then I would like you to explain to how exactly charisma can solve things like a slowing economy or the threat of a nuclear attack on a major American city.
Through this process you might even see that Obama shies away from explicitly stating how he intends to achieve universal healthcare or ending the war.
So to you 300,000 or so Obama groupies: when I ask why you are voting Obama, don't sound like George Clooney and say something silly like, "He reminds of JFK," or, "He just lights up the room a certain way."
To his credit, Obama has gotten young people back in politics. That is awesome. But the record throughout history of people who have won power through great charisma is not encouraging.
Put your feelings aside and think it over.
Ian Rock recently graduated from college.