When Barack Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination in June 2008, he marked it with — what else? — a speech. Speaking at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Obama asserted that his ascent would be seen (among other things) as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal[.]” He portrayed himself as a messianic figure who had come to redeem the time.
The St. Paul speech only made manifest what is implicit in much of Obama’s presentation of himself. This is one politician who takes himself very seriously. He does not just find it useful to have acolytes among his supporters; he views himself in grandiose terms.
Professor James Ceaser makes a genuine contribution to understanding the Obama phenomenon in “The roots of Obama worship.” Professor Ceaser holds that the 2008 campaign was an event that unfolded on an entirely different plane from ordinary politics. According to Professor Ceaser, it signaled the emergence on a worldwide scale of the “Religion of Humanity,” for which Obama became the symbol.
Professor Harvey Mansfield also contributes to understanding the Obama phenomenon in “What Obama isn’t saying.” Professor Mansfield finds Obama exploiting the rhetoric of nonpartisanship for purely partisan ends. “What every progressive wants,” Professor Mansfield explains, “is to put the particular issue he espouses beyond political dispute.” This is what Obama has sought to do preeminently with the issue of health care, but also on other matters as well. What is the principle for which Obama contends? “Obama acts and speaks as if there were no question of principle,” Professor Mansfield observes, but this is rhetorical artifice.
The Ceaser and Mansfield essays are necessary reading for anyone who seeks to apprehend the means and ends of Obamaism. Each in its own way presents a short course in the deep understanding of Obama in which Charles Kesler’s “The audacity of Barack Obama” remains supplementary reading.
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