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July 20, 2008
Not Everyone in Europe is Crazy in Love with Obama
Via the excellent site Watching America comes an editorial in Financial Times Deutschland that asks some pertinent questions of their countrymen who are about to turn out in droves to see the messiah:
That "cumbersome search for compromise" is the only thing standing between us and dictatorship. It is the lifeblood of democracy. But those under a certain age are impatient with all this talking and naively yearn for a society without political conflict and where everyone gets along (and they all lived happily ever after...)
However, this question must be asked: how much political savvy do those who celebrate Obama, a man who hasn't yet had to accept any great responsibilities, really have? Obama is often praised for rekindling enthusiasm in democracy in people due to his drawing power. But mass obeisance to a charismatic leader really has little to do with democracy. On the contrary, the sociologist Max Weber describes charismatic domination as a condition that gains no legitimacy either through elections or tradition. The Obama-hype is similar to the month-long dance around the iPhone, except that the Apple cell phone will still have to submit to field trials.
One of Obama's central messages is his distance from The Establishment, from the usual political scheming, from the deals of the political class. This promise, one that is naturally impossible to separate from every-day presidential life, also falls on open ears in Europe. Surveys regularly show that people are tired of political squabbling and the cumbersome search for compromise. A presidential anti-politician like Horst Köhler draws his popularity from the fact that he can call for or reject reforms without responsibility for day-to-day politics.
It shows, I believe, that at a fundamental level we have failed to pass on many democratic values such as compromise, tolerance, minority rights, and civility. Part of that blame should certainly go to the schools who today, mired in new leftist group-think about not how to learn but how to brainwash the young into becoming good little global citizens, are actually distrustful of democracy. But more blame should fall to parents who for what ever reason, did not inculcate the values of our system into their children's education at home.
Obama is the perfect post-democracy candidate. He promises nothing specific while leaving open the possibility that he can bring peace and justice to the galaxy like a Jedi knight. With a wave of his hand, he will stop all that confounded talk in Congress and get things done.
The German people of 1933 also were tired of bickering politicians and yearned for a strong leader who would make "the will of the people" into law. Watch Obama when he speaks in front of tens of thousands of Germans this week and remind yourself how that square was full of Germans 75 years ago basically wishing for the same thing those youngsters will be seeing in Obama.