You Can End The Campaign Now, Mr. Obama
November 17, 2008
By Bruce Walker
There is something very odd about our post-election America. The presidential campaign seemed to last forever, and it began almost as soon as the 2006 general election campaign ended. Now it seems to be continuing just as if we had never held a presidential election. The news is full of "Obama" this and "Obama" that. Rasmussen has polls on Obama's job approval rating, handling his role as President-Elect. When have we ever had polls on things like that?
Perhaps it is the flush of our first black president. Perhaps it is hangover from a very long election campaign. Or perhaps it is something much worse.
Recall the Clinton Presidency? Bill Clinton kept campaigning all the time. His administration was one continuous campaign. Governance itself, to the extent that Clinton actually governed, was simply an extension of his campaign.
Are we facing this again? Are we facing something even grimmer than that? Obama still has an army of cadres. He came from a city in which municipal administration was nothing more than an adjunct of electioneering. He learned from Saul Alinsky, who advised two things: get power at all costs and hold power at all costs. He has lived a life in which his whole existence is wrapped up in political power.
When sports sections begin to quote Obama about his position on a college playoff, when pets sections pant over what sort of pet he should have, when fashion sections dwell on Michelle, when every bit of news seems, in some way or other, connected to Barack Obama, then we have passed into a very dangerous period of our history.
The cult of personality is the most dangerous of all stages in political decline. Stalin had a cult of personality and everything he said or did on anything was reflected in Soviet society. Hitler, of course, was the living incarnation of what Germans were told to idolize. Mao cultivated his presumed pinnacle of human wisdom and his banal Little Red Book was the holy scripture of Maoist China. Kim Jong Il is North Korean life, with all the attendant horrors of having a brat as god. Big Brother was everywhere in Oceania.
America has had such cults of personality only rarely. Huey Long in Louisiana was surely the closest in our history. Although he was a "boss" (we have had lots of "bosses"), Long was more than just a boss. He presented himself as the spokesman for all the little guys in America. When the Louisiana Legislature tried to impeach Long, he brought in large numbers of people who would believe anything that Long said - if he said "black" was "white," well, so it must be.
Huey Long was like an American Juan Peron, the dictator who, with his wife, impoverished the most affluent Hispanic nation on earth and left many Argentines pining for his thuggish reign. Such "leaders" are also in business for themselves. Their success, not the success of their causes or their policies, are all that matter. Such leaders campaign all the time and govern as an afterthought.
Is Obama such a "leader"? It is too early to tell, but there is one thing that he could do to prove that he is not: Obama could stop his campaign. He has won. No one is questioning his election. There are a couple of months between his taking office and now. Why does he need to spend that time campaigning? Why do the cameras need to capture everything he does?
Let him take a vacation with his family in some secluded place. Let him hold off on commenting about things for awhile. Let him give us a break from the Obama campaign machine. Men who intend to govern for the good of the nation learn not to always embrace the limelight. The campaign is over, Mr. Obama. You won. Life is not all politics, or at least it should not be all politics. There is a universe of human activity in which, really, what you think or say should not matter to us. Soon enough your nation will judge how good a president you are - only fools will actively hope that you are a wretched failure - but the office you won is a limited, specific job.
No cult of personality, please. No masses mindlessly hanging breathlessly on your every word. Ordered liberty and free minds - this is what America, the nation you are about to govern, means. You can end the campaigning anytime now.