The cult of personality can take you far, but it can't keep you there

If you were in Barack Obama's shoes, what would you do? In the space of six short months, he's gone from boom to bust, from being a hero to being a zero, from being the guy that everybody wants to hang with to being the guy that Democrat legislators hope doesn't show up at their already taxing town halls. Since starting his term in office with stratospheric approval ratings, he is now being placed consistently below 50% by Rasmussen, the most accurate of the major polling houses. What has caused this catastrophe for the President? How did he slip so far, so fast? One thing I can tell you is that it is not due to anything the Republicans have done so far. Having been handed the golden opportunity of a political lifetime to utterly destroy the Democrats on the health care boondoggle, cap-and-tax, and Porkulus, the GOP (aside from a few fire-eaters like Senator DeMint and Sarah Palin) seems to have timidly decided that they're going to let it slip out of their hands. So far, the Party "leadership" hasn't grabbed the brass ring. Instead, they seem to be poking at it slightly to see if it will bite them or not. Meanwhile, the people are hopping mad about just about everything, but are wandering around aimlessly because the Republicans, so far, have abrogated their necessary role as the effective opposition. Even despite this, the GOP is still getting a boost at the polls. Just imagine what could happen if they'd actually do something besides reach across the aisle and seek to find "common ground."

No, Obama's disaster is of his own making. It's the natural result of several mistakes stemming from his narcissism. See, Obama began to set himself up back during the campaign. As inept as he was as a candidate, McCain did belated begin to sound the warning about Obama's socialistic tendencies. To counter this truth-telling, Obama had to brazenly lie to the American electorate about his plans for them. He campaigned as a fiscal moderate — reducing Bush's "massive" budget deficits, cutting taxes on "95% of all Americans," pretending to be a friend of the middle class, and so forth. So mistake number one was lying to us in the first place. Dishonesty is never the best policy.

Upon taking office, Obama compounded the error with mistake number two — which was to immediately begin breaking his campaign promises and setting to work on the largest, most expensive, most audacious expansion of government spending and government power yet seen in America. Didn't he know that politicians are supposed to give the people a few months to go back to sleep before they start breaking campaign promises en masse? As politically astute as he is reputed to be, I can't believe he missed that one.

Mistake number three was that he assumed that the American people are really as stupid and malleable as he and the other "progressive" elitists think we are. Like we're not going to notice that he's lied to us, or that everything he's touched to date has fallen apart. As if we're not going to detect his efforts to slip unread 1000+ page bills through Congress and to his own desk, bills that are going to have profound and destructive effects on our lives. Further, he mistakenly assumed that an aroused electorate, a sleeping giant finally awakened and going to town hall meetings, was simply going roll over and shut up because he told them to, because he and his acolytes in the media accused them of being "racist" and "evil" for opposing tax increases and the destruction of the finest health care system in the world. Like we're supposed to sit down and shut up because "he won."

In short, what Barack Obama has discovered is that the cult of personality can take you far, but it can't keep you there.

Obama rode to victory in 2008 on the shoulders of a slight majority of the voting populace who, by and large, just thought it was "cool" and "fresh" to vote for him. The jokes about Obama's messianic pretenses aside, there really was a disconcerting celebrity cult that surrounded the man, overruling the better sense and judgment of many otherwise intelligent people. You could see it in the Delphic styrofoam columns set up at the Democrat convention for his speech, setting the tone of Obama being our Apollo, bringing wisdom and revelation to the benighted people of this land. All he needed was a sacred laurel bedecking his golden head to complete the image. It was readily apparent in the constantly televised rallies, with the rhythmic chanting of "Obama....Obama....Obama!" He was popular, but for entirely wrong and superficial reasons.

Now, to the chagrin of the President and his Party, he is discovering why cults of personality are not truly reliable as a source of political power. It's because, psychologically, frenzies of excitement cannot be maintained indefinitely. In the psychological gravity of personality politics, what goes up must come down. The superficial luster will wear away. Once a personality-dependent ruler starts having to actually make decisions that will affect peoples' lives, he will invariably start to see support slip away. And when the ruler makes a string of monumentally bad decisions like Obama has, one after the other, packed tight like a can of sardines, the slippage will turn into freefall.

There will always be those who blindly cheer the President no matter what he does. However, a critical percentage of the population — the one that does things like decide elections — has awakened to what Obama really is. They've seen the lies, and they don't like them one bit. They see the gathering clouds, the storm that threatens to deluge their freedoms and their family finances, and they're revolting against it. It is no longer enough for them that Obama is "the first black President" or that he's cool and hip. They want governance that will bring back prosperity and protect their freedoms, or at least that isn't going to devastate them individually and as a nation. Yet, they're getting exactly the opposite. Obama is finding out that popularity and coolness are no substitute for substance and gravitas and wisdom and statesmanship. It's just a shame that this discovery came after he was able to scam his way into the White House.

So while I'm not exactly sure what I would do if I were in Barack Obama's shoes (though stopping the dishonesty and arrogance might be a good place to start), I know what we can do. We can keep the pressure up. We can keep going to town halls and tea parties. We can keep letting the President and his Party know that we're watching, we're not fooled anymore, and we're not going away.

© Tim Dunkin