Friday, February 15, 2008

Obamanistas

(Caption shamelessly stolen from Vicki McKenna)

I put up a few posts suggesting that the Obama moment, suggesting that what seems to be attracting a lot of his fans right now carries the dangers of politics - and the state - as religion. There is just a whiff of what attracted so many people to the New Left.

Then, on cue, Daniel Ortega has nice things to say about Obama. He's talkin' 'bout revolution.

But there's more. Obama's Houston headquarters proudly displays flags bearing the image of the murderous Che Guevera.

The Obama camp says that the paid staffers had not yet arrived and Sen. Obama allows as that this was "inappropriate." I understand that the American left has a soft spot for Che. Much of it can be attributed to a lack of understanding as to who Che was and what he actually did which was, largely, to kill people and enjoy it. Che iconography is a lot more than "inappropriate."

Sometimes you have to get lucky to be good.

Update: Just to be clear. Contrary to what some of the commenters believe, I am not calling Obama a socialist and I know that he didn't court Ortega or hang his own Che flag. I do believe that, in the American context, he is hard left. The point of my earlier posts was that I find the enthusiasm of Obama's supporters - whether it be for a political messiah or for salvation from the state - to be troubling and to carry certain dangers. Even though it is well intentioned (who can be against equality?), we know that, taken too far, it depresses the economy and, if taken to an extreme, undermines liberty. Some of the commenters acted as if I were crazy to catch anything but a desire for unity and common sense in the Obama movement. Then comes Ortega and Che. Of course, Obama is not Ortega or Che (although his response to the Che flag was weak) and I wouldn't imagine that anyone who reads here regularly would think I was suggesting that. Still, they did and perhaps I should have planted my tongue a bit more firmly in my cheek.

No, Obama is not a communist. Yes, he seems to be advocating a view of the state and of America's place in the world which, however lovely it may sound, is dangerous.

22 comments:

3rd way said...

Equating Obama's campaign with Latin American socialism is stepping over the line.

I thought you were above this sort of tripe.

Mike Plaisted said...

3rd Way:

You ain't seen nothing yet from these people. They are just getting warmed up. And Rick has been all-tripe-all-the-time on Obama -- from hysterical fear of Obama's church to "messianic" totalitarianism to this.

Oh, and his McKenna reference is to the fourth-tier radio wing-nut from Madison who spent much of this morning soliticing funny words that start with "Oba", such as "Obamuslim". Yes, it was as funny as it sounds (not at all).

Oh, and I love the Ortega-likes-Obama schtick. Just wait until other world leaders like Putin and Hugo Chavez weigh in. It's bogey-man city out there for these poor, pathetic Republicans. That's all they got.

Right now, young Republicans are running around the country trying to find another Che poster in an Obama office somewhere.

They can't win on the issues, so this is what you get. It's a shotgun smear campaign that's going on -- trying to find anything that sticks. Just relax and laugh at it -- for now.

And, sadly, don't expect any better from Rick Esenberg.

Anonymous said...

Mike -

Rick didn't make this up, Ortega was on National news.

By the way, do you have one reason that Obama would be a good President?

Anonymous said...

I thought that a "law professor" at a well-regarded university would be above this sort of cheap shot. I was wrong.

Shame on you, Herr Professor!

Rick Esenberg said...

Lighten up

Mike Plaisted said...

Rick: Lighten up?? That's all you got? What, are you just telling jokes out here? You are screeching loudly about a Che poster in a Houston office, and we're the ones who should lighten up?

Rick Esenberg said...

Mike

Go read the update. What's going on here is that you have a guy who is - near as we can tell - running from the hard left to a degree that we haven't seen since McGovern. I admit this doesn't make him a socialist because the viable political spectrum in the US doesn't include that. (I understand that McKenna said that and I disagree. The bit that you describe where people were calling in must have happened after I got out of my car.)

Obama seems - at least rhetorically - to be offering the state as a vehicle for radically transforming society and the response of many of his supporters - whether it is to that message or to the atmosphere he creates - is irrationally exuberant. I find that a little scary.

Do I think it will lead us to the world of Ortega and Che? Not really (I'm not even sure that it will lead us to President Obama), but the enthusiasm of Ortega for Obama and of some Obama supporters for Che illustrates what I'm talking about even if Obama did not court Ortega or himself endorse Che.

Still I was a little tongue in cheek and maybe I should have done something more to convey that, but I got distracted by Obama's reference to the Che flag as inappropriate. If someone walks around with a picture of Himmler on his chest, we wouldn't call it inappropriate.

Seth Zlotocha said...

I'm sure you can explain, Rick, how the far more ubiquitous notion of a Reagan Revolution -- the one that the presumptive GOP nominee this year proudly claims to be a "foot solider" for -- still somehow precludes Reagan from being the same type of ambiguously ominous "messanic figure" that you seem to want people to believe Obama represents.

Rick Esenberg said...

First, Reagan never received or encouraged the type of adulation that we see among Obamanians. Second, Reagan's revolution was to return power to individuals. While Obama talks about that, it is to be done through the auspices of the state. When he says that "they" are making you "settle for less," he means that he is going to use the state to make "them" stop.

Now, if all he's going to do is roll back the Bush tax cuts, I agree that's not all that much. But he can't deliver what he is promising - he can't change the world - by doing that. If the top marginal rate goes from 35% back to 39.6%, the world is going to be pretty much like it was before. The "rich were getting richer" all through the Clinton administration too.

Seth Zlotocha said...

First, Reagan never received or encouraged the type of adulation that we see among Obamanians.

You can't be serious, Rick. The adulation on the right for Reagan is virtually universal. Why else would McCain and other GOP nominee hopefuls be falling over themselves to claim the right to his legacy? What else does "foot solider in the Reagan Revolution" suggest except exuberant adulation for a messianic figure?

Second, Reagan's revolution was to return power to individuals. While Obama talks about that, it is to be done through the auspices of the state. When he says that "they" are making you "settle for less," he means that he is going to use the state to make "them" stop.

Reagan talked about getting government out of the way of the free market economy, which is hardly synonymous with returning "power to the people" (in spite of the fact that's what his rhetoric claimed). And Reagan did tell people their troubles weren't their own fault; he said they were the government's fault. As he put it, an overreaching government was causing a "justifiable fear in the minds of working men and women who are already overextended that soon there will be fewer jobs and no money to pay for even the necessities of life."

Obama doesn't blame the wealthy for the problems of the working class, he blames the government, just like Reagan. The difference is Obama's very direct that the only cure is getting people involved in the public sphere as a means for counteracting the effects of powerful special interest groups and creating more economic opportunities for ordinary working and middle class citizens by using public money to encourage growth in new economic sectors such as green technology. This is in contrast to Reagan who wanted people to believe there was no hope in public action -- except, of course, voting for him -- that the only hope for improvement was in the uninhibited private sector.

As evidenced by his policies to grow green technology, rejuvenate the construction sector through investing in infrastructure improvements, and avoid a government mandate on health care, Obama believes in a marketplace economy, too -- as he stated in Janesville earlier this week, "We know that government cannot solve all our problems, and we don't expect it to" -- but he just doesn't put so much faith in an uninhibited marketplace to represent the interests of working and middle class America that he's going to reject the need for a public voice in the economy.

So while we can disagree about the policy ideas of the two -- one believing in the democracy of the free market and the other in the democracy of government -- one is hardly more messianic than the other.

Rick Esenberg said...

Seth

If you can find me a clip of moon-eyed fans reaching out to touch Reagan's hem, I'll reconsider.

Yes, Reagan wanted the government out of your way. Obama wants the government to make your way.

Now, as I indicated in my update, I'm not saying that he has proposed to abolish the free market. He couldn't if he wanted to. But he does seem to be proposing a radical shift to the public sector. I appreciate that even the GOP's Obama spend-o-meter says that his announced plans would amount to maybe a 7% annual increase in federal spending but that will not change the nature of the world. So he's either overpromising or understating what it will take to deliver the "change we are waiting for." There's nothing new about that with Democratic presidential candidates, but, then, that's one of my points.

Anonymous said...

Reagan certainly had charisma, but I don't remember any outbreak of fainting spells at his campaign rallies.

John McAdams said...

If some staffers at the headquarters of a Republican candidate put up pictures of Hitler, you can bet the lefty bloggers who are here bitching would make huge hay out of it.

And if David Duke endorsed (say) McCain, the lefty blogosphere would go wild with joy.

Seth Zlotocha said...

If you can find me a clip of moon-eyed fans reaching out to touch Reagan's hem, I'll reconsider.

If you can show me evidence that moon-eyed fans reaching out to touch Obama's hem is somehow characteristic of his support or candidacy as a whole, I'd like to see it.

And it's true that Obama is often greeted like a celebrity, which has much more to do with his media presentation and our contemporary fan/celebrity culture than anything internal to his campaign or message. And, importantly, Obama is widely heralded as an attractive guy, which surely contributes to the emotions and the point that this has much to do with our celebrity/fan culture (notably, all five of the reported fainting episodes by the Wall Street Journal last week -- out of the hundreds of thousands who have attended Obama speeches over the course of the campaign-- are women). Audiences have been moon-eyed and women have fainted in the midst of Bill Clinton, too; that doesn't mean he was dangerously messianic (dangerous for his own monogamy and marriage, yes, but not in a messianic sense).

And I'd again reiterate the point -- which you've ignored, thus far -- about the presumptive GOP nominee heralding himself as a "foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution" being at least as important when discussing a politician's messianic status as an adoring public.

Yes, Reagan wanted the government out of your way. Obama wants the government to make your way.

It's hardly that simple, Rick. Both Obama and Reagan believe in the power of the market economy to build wealth, and each is clear that the market is the most appropriate means for doing that. The difference is how the two feel about the democratizing effect of the marketplace on its own. Reagan seemed to believe the market alone would be democratizing; Obama rejects that view and sees a necessary place for the government in regulating the economy in a way that ensures -- or at least tries to ensure -- every American has an opportunity to pursue (as opposed to get handed, which is the way the right likes to spin it) their own wealth in the market economy.

So he's either overpromising or understating what it will take to deliver the "change we are waiting for." There's nothing new about that with Democratic presidential candidates, but, then, that's one of my points.

As I stated over and over again in the comment thread for your last post, what Obama promises to change is the means by which we enact policies, and the president is in a unique position to deliver on this promise by being the person who sets the tone for our political society.

And for Obama this is more than just rhetoric; getting people to believe in the promise of the political process again is crucial since participation is the only way to ensure that government can be a democratizing force as opposed to one that is controlled by the few who pay attention and, more importantly in recent decades, donate lots of money to further their own interests. And, again, Obama doesn't blame the wealthy for their wealth, he blames government for not giving the rest of the country a reason to believe in the process and, as a result, participate in it.

Sam Sarver said...

Prof. McAdams, I find your comment very misleading. Equating Hitler and Che Guevara is about as accurate as equating Castro with Stalin or Chairman Mao. One of them is a genocidal maniac, the other isn't. I'm not defending Che by any means, but your associating them either seriously overstates Che's "badness," or grievously understates the evil of Hitler.

"And if David Duke endorsed (say) McCain, the lefty blogosphere would go wild with joy."

Oh, please. You know McCain would disavow that endorsement at his first opportunity, as would any other sane Republican. And comparing David Duke to Daniel Ortega is just as ridiculous as comparing Che to Hitler.

Republicrat said...

Mike and Seth --

In your comments, would you mind changing your tune just a bit? I'm getting a little sick of the following arguments:

(1) Because Rick has an observation about Obama's supporters, he (and the rest of his "people") have nothing on Obama on the issues.

Mike, you put quotes around "messianic." I presume this means that you don't agree with this characterization. Well, just in time via Drudge, Breitbart offers a visual response to your intimated disagreement: http://www.breitbart.tv/html/48404.html

Take a look. Do the fainting folks remind you of anything? Like maybe those creepy churches in which the preacher -- channeling Jesus, no doubt -- exorcises his followers' demons? Surely, you won't be able to claim that ALL the Obama fainters merely stood in heat for too long.

(2) Because Rick doesn't write an essay in every post as to why Obama should not be elected, the subjects in his post are the ONLY criticisms he has about Obama.

(3) Reagan and his followers were the same way, so you can't criticize us!

With this, I must disagree. I'll concede that Reagan NOW is a messianic figure for the right, and I'll concede that the Reagan-worship is getting ridiculous. (Did you see the debate at his presidential library? Did the candidates -- minus Huckabee -- really say that Reagan would vote for them?)

But don't let this messiah-creation color your memory of the past. Reagan was no Obama.

Furthermore, and more important than my last point (which I'm sure we could continue to argue about), this argument is nothing more than an attempt to avoid the issue -- "You were/are the same, so you can't criticize me!" How about, rather than avoiding the issue, you finally meet it head on -- and admit that some Obama supporters are starting to get a little creepy, and the Obama campaign both breeds and encourages this hero worship?

By the way, Mike, settle down. Your pleasant expression in your photo belies an all-too-familiar, seething anger. Maybe a Howard-Dean-like scream will help you release some of that anger -- I'm betting it would work far better than commenting angrily every time Rick posts.

Rick Esenberg said...

If you can show me evidence that moon-eyed fans reaching out to touch Obama's hem is somehow characteristic of his support or candidacy as a whole, I'd like to see it.

Have you seen his spots? That's just what they show. This is what he chooses to emphasize.

what Obama promises to change is the means by which we enact policies,

You keep saying that. But I don't see what he's proposing to change. What I am hear him saying is things like "they" have made "you" settle for less.

Both Obama and Reagan believe in the power of the market economy to build wealth, and each is clear that the market is the most appropriate means for doing that.

This tends to be the ground on which American elections are fought, although I'd add that neither Reagan nor the Bushes suspended - or cut back - on the welfare state.

But Obama is suggesting that he will remake the world. In so many words. How is he going to do that? Certainly not by increasing the federal budget by 7%

There is still a disconnect between the claims and the reality.

Zachary said...

"First, Reagan never received or encouraged the type of adulation that we see among Obamanians."

Rick, do you actually believe that? Whether Reagan received or encouraged the type of adulation we've seen among Obama supporters during his life, Republicans sure have turned him into their patron saint now that he's dead. After all, how many times have we heard Republicans try to out-Reagan each other during the campaign? I don't think any of the Presidential candidates didn't invoke St. Ronnie at some point during the campaign, and don't even get me started on how they've used Reagan's Presidential Library as a backdrop for a debate and Giuliani's withdrawal announcement.

Anonymous said...

Are we missing something here...I think Reagan earned the respect and admiration of people whereas Obama supporters are drunk on an empty wine bottle.

Republicrat said...

What is your point, Zach? You make a false comparison between

(1) Republican candidates (and Republicans generally) making Reagan into a saint

and

(2) Obama's followers making him into some kind of savior.

(1) is about channeling the spirit of the dead savior in the hope that your supporters will think you're like him. This is more akin to a preacher channeling Jesus -- he's not claiming to be a savior himself, but he's hoping to appear like the dead savior in his words, actions, and beliefs. The Republican candidates are channeling Reagan so that voters will think that their policies are equivalent.

(2), on the other hand, has nothing to do with channeling dead saviors. In (2), Obama IS the savior. He's not hoping to appear like some dead savior. Instead, his campaign is creating a savior-like image -- or, at a minimum, encouraging it -- to win votes. He's not seeking to have his policies compared to those of the dead savior. Instead, he's pushing his messianic status as a reason to vote for him, and he is decidedly not focusing on his stance on the issues.

Seth Zlotocha said...

Republicrat,

Furthermore, and more important than my last point (which I'm sure we could continue to argue about), this argument is nothing more than an attempt to avoid the issue -- "You were/are the same, so you can't criticize me!"

My criticisms have been twofold from the the beginning.

First, when Rick says there's something uniquely messianic and threatening about Obama as a presidential candidate, I've pointed out that Reagan is looked at on the right in a similarly messianic way, which is something you may acknowledge but Rick doesn't. (By the way, the "Reagan Revolution" was the explicit name given to a program that came directly out of Reagan's campaign and then his administration; it wasn't something that developed in recent years, although the adulation certainly has persisted.) This point is more than just "You were/are the same, so you can't criticize me," it gets straight at the issue of how threatening an Obama presidency truly is for American society, which is really the crux of Rick's point, not merely that he's framing himself as a messianic figure.

This leads to my second point, and this was fleshed out more in my comments to the previous post, which is that the change that Obama talks about is a change in political culture, not the fabric of American society or the basis of the American economy. As a corollary to this, I've asked Rick for specifics on just what is so uniquely threatening to American society about an Obama presidency. In other words, I'm calling out Rick to explain a little more about the trouble he sees stemming from the excitement over Obama's campaign, as opposed to just using ominously ambiguous labels like "messianic figure" and phrases like "a whiff of trouble in it." So far he's responded that Obama may effectively enact liberal policies, which may sound threatening to a conservative, but it hardly lives up to the far-reaching ominous tone of Rick's posts.

Rick,

Have you seen his spots? That's just what they show. This is what he chooses to emphasize.

I have seen his spots, and are you referring to the shots of excited supporters who want to shake his hand? Sorry, but I'm not following on that one. You seem to be trying to blur the lines between excitement and uncontrollable euphoria. It's certainly true that some Obama supporters have taken their excitement to the level of euphoria -- which has also happened with other politicians like Bill Clinton -- but that certainly isn't highlighted in any of Obama's ads or on his website. What he highlights is quite controlled excitement, which is something any campaign is going to want to highlight (and if it doesn't, that's probably not a good thing). Claiming that some people have fainted or otherwise lost control during an Obama appearance and therefore all of the excitement must be "creepy" is quite a stretch.

You keep saying that. But I don't see what he's proposing to change. What I am hear him saying is things like "they" have made "you" settle for less.

Once again, what Obama promises to change is the means by which we enact policies, and the president is in a unique position to deliver on this promise by being the person who sets the tone for our political society.

There are really two parts to this.

One, as GOP state senator from IL Kirk Dillard has pointed out, "Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanour that defused skeptics." Adding that Obama has a "unique" ability "to deal with extremely complex issues, to reach across the aisle and to deal with diverse people." So he's demonstrated an ability to tackle complex issues in an inclusive manner, which would be a refreshing quality for a president in this country after eight years of the current unilateralist administration.

And, two, following up on my points above, Obama has demonstrated an ability to bring new and previously disillusioned people into the political process through the tone he establishes for his campaign, and I believe he'd set a similar tone in his presidency. As I said above, getting people to believe in the promise of the political process again is crucial since participation is the only way to ensure that government can be a democratizing force as opposed to one that is controlled by the few who pay attention and, more importantly in recent decades, donate lots of money to further their own interests. And, again, Obama doesn't blame the wealthy for their wealth, he blames government for not giving the rest of the country a reason to believe in the process and, as a result, participate in it.

Anonymous said...

Ahh. . .let the Shark and the rest of the conservatives and neocons be very, very afraid of Obama! It is what they deserve for two terms of Bush and Company that has seriously damaged this country. The Shark and the rest of his ilk will continue to slam Obama, scare people into thinking Obama will make this country socialist or even communist (isn't that the way Bush and Company "governs". . .by fear. . .oooh, run, get the duct tape. . .we'll be attacked again). I'm hoping Obama (and yes, if it turns out to be Clinton) can right this country.