Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cult of Personality

Even as an Obama supporter, I freely admit that much of his appeal is based on personal, rather than strictly objective, factors. He has an engaging personality, a compelling life story, and a physical stature appropriate for the leader of the free world. His election is a historic event in the life of our nation, and a positive sign of the progress made in racial relations.

This is not to say that I feel his election was due solely to externalities. I happen to agree with many of his positions, and with most of his proposed solutions. I think the last administration has been so incredibly harmful to the country that it requires a stark and total repudiation.

The risk going forward is how to judge President Obama's progress, and here I call for caution, not from the right, but from the left. Obama could solve world hunger and bring about a golden age on Monday, and the Republicans would find something to criticize on Tuesday. Nor are they necessarily excoriated for doing so. It is their job, and a republic needs a free opposition.

The real danger is that those of us who supported him may not hold his administration to the kind of strict inquiry required of public affairs. Obama is incredibly popular, and much of his campaign was explicitly anti-establishment. We must be careful to avoid a cult of personality, and always remember that we elected him to effectuate policies we believed in. This charges us with the obligation to be objective; a burden far more demanding now than it has been the last eight years, but one we cannot evade.

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