It is all starting to play out like a well choreographed episode of American Idol where the out of nowhere long shot crooner from inner-city Chicago is beating the stuffing out of the well coached and expensively coiffed professional from Noo Yawk.
That this makes for gripping television there is no doubt but it may not necessarily be a good thing for the country in the long run. Actually perceiving and supporting a president by using the same criteria employed to judge the talents of a celebrity is not only a big mistake but is probably dangerous to our health. Writer Anthony Gregory hits the nail on the head with an article published Monday which amplifies this point quite well (here is an excerpt):
Obama promises lots more spending but he is an interesting case. He actually terrifies me precisely because I find him rather likeable. When a radical libertarian finds something to like in a statist of this caliber, you know we are dealing with a dangerous politician.
His appeal is somewhat understandable. Of course, much of Obama’s program is anathema, but on crucial issues like war and civil liberties, he sounds much less crazed than Bush, McCain or Hillary. Listen to the conciliatory way he puts things. He sounds much less offensive to many basic old liberal principles than the others.
Then it hits me. He’s not saying anything at all, really, except what everyone wants to hear. He is a masterful politician and represents what most Americans want out of their president – someone they can be proud of and feel good about, someone to shape their warm and fuzzy view of what it means to be American. This view varies somewhat, depending on the group, from the center left/progressive coalition that backs Obama to the neocon/theocon/Wall Street Bush coalition. But it is clear that most all Americans want a president they can respect.
I don’t. I don’t want Americans to get their faith back in the presidency. It is a horrible institution and the more the people give it blind trust based on the personality they see, the more awesome its power and abuses. In the 1970s, the presidency was gloriously disrespected and thus relatively impotent. Reagan brought faith back into the presidency, at least for the right and center. Clinton later did the same for the left and center. Their administrations were quite detrimental for American liberty.
Modern politicians get votes not mostly on their policies but rather on how they make people feel about America. When Americans favor the president more, they also tend to think more highly of the presidency. They want more from their government, and are less bothered when it commits great wrongs. It has been populist solidarity with the state that has created the democratic leviathan of the 20th century, with all its power to bomb, usurp and torture. Vast American pride in the presidency is what has allowed it to become the nation's master and such a menace to the world.
Americans shouldn’t look to the president for their self-respect, patriotism and cultural identity. The presidency in its current form is entirely too powerful and thus an inherently corrupting and inhumanely destructive thing. The presidency as it supposedly should be, under the Constitution, is a relatively humble office overseeing the executive branch, one of three composing a radically restrained government with very limited enumerated powers. Today, the presidency overshadows the other branches, the states, and all Constitutional and statutory limits on its power. In any event, why should 300 million people, and to a great extent the rest of the world, have to live under one all-powerful law enforcement official? The whole idea seems like some kind of insanity. How did this become the American way? If we are to restore our freedom, we need our compatriots to snap out of this trance. The silver lining in the Bush administration has been the disgust he has elicited so universally, especially among the left and center. This has constrained his actions somewhat. I am not looking forward to the many Americans turned off by the obvious horrors of the Bush administration once again respecting and trusting the president.
Short of a mass campaign against the omnipotent presidency itself, which Ron Paul’s has come closest to representing in modern electoral history, no presidential bid is going to excite me much. I prefer the president kill far fewer people and loot the country less. I prefer fewer peaceful prisoners to more. But we will all lose out on peace, freedom and wealth so long as Americans love and celebrate the presidency, looking to it as savior, moral guardian for the nation, stabilizer of the economy, provider of goods and necessities, protector against evil and liberator of the world. Indeed, given the choice between an Obama, Hillary or McCain who might breathe new life into the presidency and restore the respect and awe it once elicited; or, on the other hand, the stale, despised and pathetic George W. Bush, I am more than tempted to say: Four More Years!