Monday, February 11, 2008
Cult of Personality debate:
Paul Krugman writes
The bitterness of the fight for the Democratic nomination is, on the face of it, bizarre.
... most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody. I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality.
That's certainly not my impression. If anything, I've read more venemous posts and comments from Hillary Clinton supporters (and that's from die-hard Hillary supporters like Taylor Marsh
). And Hilzoy concurs
I have no doubt that most of the venom that Krugman sees comes from Obama supporters.
The blogosphere is not particularly representative, but it's probably a lot more representative than Krugman's mail. For what it's worth, I don't see a lot of venom among pro-Obama bloggers either. I mean, does anyone think that Matt Yglesias is venomous, or consumed by hatred of all things Hillary? I don't. What about Mark Kleiman? Or Anonymous Liberal? Or, well, publius and me? We've all been supporters of Obama for a while, and I don't think any of us is particularly full of hate and bitterness. For that matter, none of us strike me as lending much support to another of Krugman's claims: that "the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality."
[I wouldn't include Mark Kleiman in that list. He may not be bitter, but he's pretty relentless.]
There's not much venom out there, but the reason for the strong feelings is that this is a Democratic year. The outcome is pretty much guaranteed, so the Democratic nomination (much like Democratic primaries in the South in the 1950's) is
Over at The Agonist, there is an anti-Hillary post
on this issue (which is not in love with Obama, either) that says there have been, and are, cults of personality all over the place. But there is this one interesting aspect:
Clinton's cult of personality is both on the wane, and never touched the internet in any meaningful way. Her Royal Clintoness was the creature of old politics. She never bothered to create an online presence, even though she hired some of the best internet minds out there.
The outrage is that Obama's cult represents to people the end of the Clintonian era in the party, when it seemed over and over again that initiatives were stopped because the Clintons decided how they would be triangulated into place to support Bill Clinton. This is not an empty view: Clinton made little effort to win back Congress. He made little effort to win over state houses and governorships. Under his Presidency, the rest of the Democratic Party was under pressure from one side of the country to the other. Reliably Democratic states, such as Massachusetts and New York, stayed under Republican Governors.
However this turns out, a victory for Clinton or a victory for Obama, there will be hurt feelings. You can see it at the rallies. Look at the faces of the young women for Hillary, for instance. For them, it's more than choosing a politican because of policy positions. There is a lot of identification going on, and while it is a big motivator, it can also create problems when there is a competing figure to deal with.
Hilzoy is quite right, and I'm sure Krugman is seeing a lot of vehement commentary from Obama fans about Krugman's string of columns against Obama.
If Krugman were to write ten or so anti-Clinton columns in a row I'm sure he'd see a lot of fervor from that side, too.
As for my own vehemence, I didn't mind too much when the Clintons took some liberties with Obama's statements or history. That's part of politics, though arguing vigorously against these distortions is important.
However, I admit I became quite furious when there was (I am convinced, though proof will never exist) a concerted infusion of racial themes into the Clinton campaign. Since we're no longer hearing Clinton surrogates popping off with "Shuck and Jive," black-oriented drug references, stretching to put Jesse Jackson in the discourse, etc etc, my ire has abated.
But it hasn't totally gone away. I've gone over into strong Clinton fatigue and I doubt it'll wear off until they disappear from the spotlight for some time.
All the more reason for the eventual winner to be, like, gracious in victory. Srsly.