Understanding the appeal of Obama
Conservative and Tea Party fans often have difficulty understanding why Obama's appeal is so strong he may win the 2012 election despite our languishing economy. Let me help them solve this mystery.
Selecting a President is much like selecting a spouse: we usually get much less than what we hoped for. Our secret dreams are the stuff of fairly tales, while reality is something else. Women often long for tall, dark, handsome, rich, powerful, kind, loving, and thoughtful men who smell good, but the testosterone that drives men to succeed makes them more likely to stink and go bald. Men usually fantasize about marrying slim gorgeous women with large breasts perpetually immune to the effects of gravity and long silky legs sans cellulite or varicose veins, but most people in developed countries eat processed foods and live lifestyles conducive to making men and women look the way they do: like marshmallows, and they're just about as healthy.
We're usually bloated, rarely smiling, and so far from perfection we have no reasonable basis to expect it in others.
So it is with politicians. Obama is far from perfect, but just as we settle for spouses who don't match our dreams, we accept imperfect political leaders, too. Our culture and its political system breeds imperfection, so we shouldn't be shocked when we always get it. No matter who wins the 2012 election, we'll get it, as we always do. Politicians who fall far short of perfection are a sign of the underlying problem, just as fever is not the ultimate enemy in infectious diseases. Most voters don't understand this, so they and the pundits they favor think we can solve the problem by attacking its signs and symptoms. Harsher rhetoric to blast our opponents, and more Tylenol® to control the fever. No matter how many times we try it, the problem is still there.
The most salient difference between Obama and other politicians is that he does a better job delivering on his promises. He likely disappointed Peggy Joseph and others like her, but he did an amazing job of spreading the wealth around not just to his union buddies but his Wall Street friends, too—it's a myth that Obama is a socialist. He's also been very generous to the Hollywood multimillionaires. To the extent he let Peggy Joseph down, he gave many others less reason to fear him. The distance between him and Bush (take your pick of either one) is less than the distance of them to Ron Paul.
Sure, Obama has some radical ideas, a few of which were transferred into reality that rubbed most conservative and Tea Party fans the wrong way. But what did George “Miss Me Yet?” Bush #43 do? Bloat the size of government, expand Medicare, institute the unpatriotic and unconstitutional Patriot Act, get the ball rolling on TARP and the bailouts, and fight the War on Terror in such a costly way that it is doing more to end the United States as a prosperous nation than it will to snuff out terrorism, which will surely flourish once we're bankrupt and too economically enfeebled to do anything more than whine about it. Bush cut taxes but screwed us in ways that make higher taxes inevitable. Or make national bankruptcy almost inevitable unless the United States government succeeds in what it is now doing: stealing from its citizens to fund its survival. Take your pick.
Muhammad Ali cleverly used his rope-a-dope method to trick a stronger adversary into exhausting his strength before he moved in for the kill. Terrorists are using the same strategy against the United States: the dope. They knew the Dope-in-Chief Bush would react as he did.
I once thought Bush #43 was exactly what America needed: a compassionate conservative. It sounded good, but what we got was a blithering idiot whose policies were more statist than conservative yet still rubbed liberals the wrong way, often with good reason. Had he been born into an average family instead of one powerful enough to help the Village Idiot become President, Bush would have become a manager of a used car lot or fast food restaurant, not the United States. (My apologies to folks who sell used cars or fast food, most of whom have more on the ball than Bush.)
Bush is the predictable result of too much power and too little brainpower. If he were better at thinking, he could have thought of a better way to fight terrorism at much less cost in terms of dollars and lives, domestic and foreign (1, 2, 3)—something he clearly cared little about, with the latter engendering anti-American sentiment and thus planting a million seeds of hatred, any one of which may grow up to be the next Osama bin Laden.
Bush married a killer because she was cute (that'll be news to Fox News fans, no doubt), and many voters chose him because he was handsome, a Bush (ugh!), and supposedly a conservative, but that conservative gave us nightmares that Jimmy Carter never dreamed of. Let us not forget that Bush gave us Chief Justice John Roberts who drove a nail in the coffin of freedom. Bush gave Roberts the power to make conservatism—or at least the version of it favored by the most powerful conservative in recent history—mean little more than giving its supporters the words they crave but the reality they abhor. With friends like Bush and Roberts, who needs enemies?
Bush cozied up to Karl Rove, a Machiavellian schemer who is robotically repulsive and seemingly devoid of humanity—a sentiment I believed just as strongly when I was 100% conservative.
Republicans want people to think they are the party of less government, but judging how they expand it when they are in power, they are more the party of less truth than they are the party of less government. Democrats are at least more honest. Barack Obama is commendably straightforward: he promised to spread the wealth around, and unlike many politicians, he did exactly that. You probably love him if you're receiving money he took from others who hate him for that same reason. In either case, his candor is as refreshing as doing what he said he'd do—if only all politicians would be so honest!
Bush gave conservatives ephemeral victories and endless problems, while Obama is giving some of his supporters the country they dreamed of. It's not difficult to understand his appeal.
I once was a fervent Republican but I am profoundly allergic to stupidity unless there is a good excuse for it. Any Republican with half a brain should be able to figure out how to remain true to conservative principles but appeal more than Democrats to voters who want what other Americans have so much they'll vote for politicians promising it. Smart Republicans could become the Santa Claus party and do more for real conservative principles than their idol Ronald Reagan, but as Republican Governor Bobby Jindal said, the GOP needs to “stop being the stupid party.” Republicans nominated pathetic John McCain, didn't learn from their primary mistake, and repeated the error in nominating equally pathetic Mitt Romney.
Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Based on that definition, Republicans are insane for doing what they've been doing. Thomas Edison said, “There's a way to do it better — find it,” but even when the solution is given to them, they're too stupid to recognize it.
- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “surrounded by people with similar views, appears to have fallen victim to the same echo-chamber effect that left so many conservatives utterly confused when Barack Obama crushed Mitt Romney in November. When you only talk to people who agree with you, it becomes easy to mistake your own view for the view of the majority of Americans.”
Comment: As a former über-conservative, I know that conservatives are great at preaching to the choir.