Some of these charges are as vague as the supposed empty support Obama is receiving. This morning's Cincinnati Enquirer included an op-ed by Kathleen Parker where she spends some 800 words explaining what she considers the irrational movement of Obama supporters and yet includes only one comment by one 20 year old from Seattle who is an Obama fan. That's the best Kathleen could do? Find one kid on the other side of the country to substantiate her charge? Meanwhile smear all the supporters.
After clicking around the web, I got a kick out of the insightful comments from the Washington Post that point out that some of these sites designed to make fun of Obamamania, are actually created by supporters!
But most of the sites that poke fun at online Obamamania are engineered by supporters, some of whom are explaining to themselves -- and to lovers, friends, co-workers -- Obama's pull. The Web is an expressive, creative sandbox, a virtual playground where you can be as self-effacing and self-indulgent as possible. It's a place where inside jokes become, when effective, everyone's jokes.Snip
"To some people, the 'Yes We Can' video is when folks started to think, 'Oh, this is too much,' " says Joshua Levy of TechPresident, the bipartisan group blog that tracks how the candidates are campaigning on the Web. "The Internet is all about authenticity. When somebody gets too popular, too mainstream, their authenticity is questioned. It's like an indie band joining a major label. It's like Kurt Cobain. It's like 'Juno.' "Somehow this just made me laugh. We sometimes forget that this generation of millenialists were raised in a culture of irony. They are able to make fun of themselves and their heroes. We taught them how.
The criticism that Obama-tons are dangerous has led to all kinds of misguided associations: The Children's Crusade, cults, the Nazi party, rock-stardom and more. Young people are being portrayed as unthinking and incapable of political judgment. (Pretty insulting stuff. On the other hand, much did you know why you voted for a candidate at 18-20?)
Presidential candidates must be able to draw a following in addition to putting forward their ideas for governing. What is striking about Obama is that he has passionate followers, not just party hacks. These "fans" are our neighbors, friends, kids, not just hardcore partisans who campaign every election.
Brenden Neil takes his time explaining why the opposition and political analysts are afraid of the Obamamomentum in this excellent article: Why They're Scared of Obamamania. I made the argument recently that the charges against Obama's supporters aren't all that different than the ones leveled at people like me who voted for George Bush. Neil makes this same point, but even more powerfully.
Indeed, the current view of Obama’s support base as a ‘dangerous’ unthinking blob builds on Democrat attacks on Bush voters during the presidential race of 2004. Back then, Democratic-leaning commentators described the millions of people who were planning to back Bush as mentally unstable – literally. One complained that Americans were voting in a ‘fog of fear’, and thus they could not see the issues, or the ‘real politics’, clearly: apparently, thanks to Bush’s ‘unremitting fearmongering’, ‘millions of voters are reacting not with their linear and logical left brain, but with their lizard brain and their more emotional right brain… It’s not about left wing vs right wing; it’s about left brain vs right brain.’ (8)Perhaps what is missing in all of this analysis is why there is such a deep craving for a leader who does move us, whose aspirations for change (change that is aimed at reforming the political machinery we all agree is bad for our country) and who invests his political ideals with hope (rather than irony, rather than brandishing his superiority and "care-taking" role) is like food to a starving populous.
So Bush-supporters were lizard-like creatures acting out of irrational and blind fear rather than being sensible decision-makers. Al Gore, the Democrats’ failed presidential candidate of 2000 who has rehabilitated himself through the climate change issue, argued in his recent book The Assault on Reason that America’s generally right-leaning media has warped people’s minds. In Bush-era America, he argued, such is the media’s ‘power of persuasion’ that it triggers in people responses that are no longer ‘modulated by logic, reason and reflective thought’ (9).
It's not that people are being brain-washed. After all, everyone on the right and all the Clinton supporters seem perfectly immune to Obama's supposedly mesmerizing rhetoric. Rather, there is a growing nucleus of Americans tired of business as usual in politics. They want diplomacy that gets away from "evil empire" and "axis-of-evil" rhetoric, who believe that the "empathy deficit" is real. They are sick of the tedious red state-blue state conflict. Neil says:
Much of his support represents a healthy and positive reaction against the deep cynicism and fatalism of mainstream Western politics over the past decade and more. Obama supporters are not cultish slaves: they are people who have had enough of negative, fear-driven, small-minded politics, of both the Republican and Democratic variety, and now – as they keep telling us – they Want Change. Indeed, Obama has become a heroic figure for many young people in European countries as well as in America: it is not so much what he promises, programmatically, to do if he gets into the White House that attracts them; rather they are angry about and repelled by the current state of mainstream politics, and they are drawn to Obama because they think he represents something different, something seemingly positive, fresh, uncynical. Whatever you think of Obama and his coterie, there is unquestionably something interesting, possibly even stirring, in the loud and rowdy grassroots support for his campaign. Whether Obama can fulfil people’s desires for a fresh way of doing politics - that is questionable in the extreme.In this last, perhaps the critics have done Obama a favor. By bringing this critique to his movement early, if Barack wins the nomination, he and his followers will be ready to answer the charges that they are a bunch of irrational Obamatons. Truth is, they are motivated to study hard now. I would be surprised if the same can be said for McCain supporters, who may be voting out of a reflexive commitment to being Republican more than true fans of his policies.
However, if anything will confirm to the ‘Obamabots’ that contemporary politics is rotten, it will be the current attempts to write them off as ‘dangerous’ cultists who have no place interfering in the serious business of political debate.