Nathan Sass

Barack Obama, American Idol

In Barack Obama, Politics on September 28, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Quick quiz: Name the last 4 winners of American Idol.

Time’s up. They are Lee DeWyze (2010), Kris Allen (2009), David Cook (2008), and Jordin Sparks (2007). I only know that because I had to look it up on Google.  They also all have something in common with the current President. 

Each of those artists were for a brief period at the height of popularity and fame, and yet a scant few months later they are all but forgotten by most Americans. Sure, there are fans of the show who remember them, but the majority of the world doesn’t.

The Beatles they ain’t, that’s for sure.

Barack Obama’s latest appearances in very blue places have been, generously speaking, sparsely attended for a sitting President only 20 months into his first term. At an event in the bluest city around, New York, he could not even sell out a fundraiser with ticket prices at a paltry $50.

Just like an American Idol champion, Obama’s star has faded fast. I, for one, am not surprised at all.

Obama was swept into power by the same mechanisms that lifted David Cook to the pinnacle of fame. Relentless hype based on a cult of personality that built into a frenzy, but lacked any real substance.

Sadly for the POTUS, such things are always doomed to one of two outcomes.

One is one that has tragic outcomes for millions of people. The same cult of personality lifted leaders to the heights throughout human history. The names are a literal murderer’s row of evil: Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Peron, Castro, and Chavez among hundreds of others less well known.

Each of these men was swept to power in the same basic swirl of almost mindless excitement and substance-less hype that propelled Obama to power. However, unlike Obama, when they achieved their power they immediately worked to consolidate it and perpetuate it through fear, intimidation and outright murder of opponents.

Crowds continued to throng to them, not out of adoration, but out of fear for their lives. Privately many of their subjects despised them, but would never dare to speak out, even to their friends and family.

The other outcome is what we see in the US today, and frankly it is not new to Presidential politics. For example, in 1975 Carter was swept to power in largely the same way. His star faded faster than most in modern politics, and he was drubbed in his reelection bid.

In the US, it is virtually impossible to accomplish what the previous list’s members did. Obama is unable, thanks in no small part to the vision of the founders, to rule through fear and intimidation.

People, then are free to leave him in their droves, once the swirl of the cult of personality dissipates, and they are left with only his actions and policies to base their support on.

In 2008, there were t-shirts galore with his face on them. There were posters with his image and simplistic non-statements like “HOPE” emblazoned below his face everywhere you looked.

But “hope” means almost nothing concrete, and when the concrete policy is revealed, the warm fuzzy feeling is replaced with something of far more substance.  People have something firm to base their opinions on, and stop thinking in vague generalities.

A cult of personality is always doomed, and will always claim its victims. Either the people pay with their lives or the leader pays with their political lives.

In the US, baring some serious negative developments, the Constitution guarantees that the latter will always hold. Those founding fathers were so much more visionary than we could ever comprehend.

Obama and the Democrats are only now discovering that he is the political equivalent of David Cook. Hot for a second, until people hear him outside the hype machine, and then he just becomes a marginal singer people are not at all in love with.

This is why issues matter, and we need to make sure we always require ourselves to support candidates on the issues, not because they are “cool” and “in”.

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