Forbes.com Peter Robinson, 02.27.09, 12:01 AM ET . "But you don't understand," the Colombian said. "We've seen this before." . "He's right, my good friend," the Cuban said. "We Latin Americans know the pattern. Believe me we do." . The American tried to shrug off the Latin Americans' warning. To his consternation, he found that he couldn't. Peron, Fidel, now Chavez, they insisted. The emergence of misrule, corruption and economic stagnation in Latin American nations follows a particular sequence or progression. Now the sequence was unfolding in the United States. . "It starts with a cult of personality," the Cuban explained. "One man declares himself the jefe, the caudillo, the big leader." . Had Obama attempted to instigate something like a cult of personality? The American found the charge impossible to refute. During the campaign, Obama had failed to advance a genuine agenda, instead campaigning on "hope" and "change." In effect, he had asked Americans to turn the nation over to him on blind faith. He would, he promised, transcend racial and partisan divides in his very person. . The One had thrived, moreover, on addressing vast gatherings. In Berlin, he had addressed a quarter of a million Germans. At the Democratic convention, he had given his acceptance speech not in a convention hall before a few thousand supporters, but in a stadium before 80,000. In some subtle but palpable way, the American had to admit, Obama had transgressed our political tradition. He had reduced his supporters to facelessness. . And to an astonishing extent, the American had to grant, the elites--Congress, academics, the mainstream media--had proved only too willing to place themselves in thrall to Obama. On Feb. 17, for example, the president had signed an $800 billion "stimulus" bill, at least three-quarters of which was devoted not to stimulus but to political payoffs. Less than a week later, he had hosted a White House "summit" on fiscal responsibility. Had the press noted the contrast? Had it objected? The very idea. . Let George W. Bush mispronounce a word, and the press would howl for a month. Let Barack Obama offend against language itself--let him suggest that he signed perhaps the most reckless fiscal act in American history as an instance of "fiscal responsibility," engaging in an almost Orwellian example of doublespeak--and the press utters scarcely a murmur. . "After the cult of personality," the Colombian explained, "what comes next is nationalization." Fidel had nationalized the Cuban sugar mills, Chavez the Banco de Venezuela, Morales the Bolivian oil and gas industries. . Obama? He may not have been issuing sweeping diktats. But as the American had to admit, he had already presided over a vast expansion of the federal stake in banks, in the automobile industry and in the mortgage markets. And in his address before Congress, he had proposed a new federal presence in health care, an industry that accounts for a full one-seventh of the economy. . "The last step?" asked the Cuban. "Censorship. It won't be obvious at first--they're always too smart for that. But it will come." . "Never," replied the American. "We have the First Amendment." . "And soon enough," the Cuban said, smiling sadly, "you will also have the Fairness Doctrine." . Revoked in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to air contrasting views of public issues. Reintroduced today, the Fairness Doctrine would force radio stations to pair conservative talk show hosts, who draw big audiences, with liberal hosts, who, as Al Franken's brief radio career demonstrated, draw barely any audiences at all. As the American had to grant, the Fairness Doctrine would thus make talk radio unprofitable, in effect censoring Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Michael Reagan, Laura Ingraham and other conservative stars. The re-imposition of the Fairness Doctrine--and the imposition of censorship. Was this possible? As the American had to admit, it now appeared not only possible but likely. . "[O]ur new president has rightly talked about accountabililtyâ€¦," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D.-Mich., had said during a recent discussion of the Fairness Doctrine. "I absolutely think it's time to be bringing some accountability to the airwaves. ... I have already had some discussion with colleagues and ... I feel like that's going to happen." . A cult of personality, nationalization and censorship. . "We still have the Constitution," the American told himself after the conversation had ended. "A Fidel? A Peron? In this country? Ridiculous." Yet he found that one image kept coming to mind: that of the 2 million people who had thronged the Mall on Inauguration Day, gazed upon a charismatic leader and chanted "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" . Four years from now, the American thought, voters may very well remove the new president from office. In certain ways, however, he has already made this great nation look like a banana republic. . . Peter Robinson, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and contributor to RobinsonandLong.com, writes a weekly column for Forbes.