Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Great Seduction

It's becoming ever more apparent that Barack Obama is exerting a pull on the electorate that goes beyond the normal affinities of partisan interest group politics. He is becoming an object of worship, not so much persuading followers as seducing them. How else to explain this essay by SF Gate columnist Mark Morford?

Is Obama an enlightened being?
Spiritual wise ones say: This sure ain't no ordinary politician. You buying it?

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Friday, June 6, 2008

I find I'm having this discussion, this weird little debate, more and more, with colleagues, with readers, with liberals and moderates and miserable, deeply depressed Republicans and spiritually amped persons of all shapes and stripes and I'm having it in particular with those who seem confused, angry, unsure, thoroughly nonplussed, as they all ask me the same thing: What the hell's the big deal about Obama?

I, of course, have an answer. Sort of.

Warning: If you are a rigid pragmatist/literalist, itchingly evangelical, a scowler, a doubter, a burned-out former '60s radical with no hope left, or are otherwise unable or unwilling to parse alternative New Age speak, click away right now, because you ain't gonna like this one little bit.

Ready? It goes likes this:

Barack Obama isn't really one of us. Not in the normal way, anyway.

This is what I find myself offering up more and more in response to the whiners and the frowners and to those with broken or sadly dysfunctional karmic antennae - or no antennae at all - to all those who just don't understand and maybe even actively recoil against all this chatter about Obama's aura and feel and MLK/JFK-like vibe.

To them I say, all right, you want to know what it is? The appeal, the pull, the ethereal and magical thing that seems to enthrall millions of people from all over the world, that keeps opening up and firing into new channels of the culture normally completely unaffected by politics?

No, it's not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring rhetoric. It is not fresh ideas or cool charisma or the fact that a black president will be historic and revolutionary in about a thousand different ways. It is something more. Even Bill Clinton, with all his effortless, winking charm, didn't have what Obama has, which is a sort of powerful luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity.

Dismiss it all you like, but I've heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who've been intuitively blown away by Obama's presence - not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence - to say it's just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord.

Here's where it gets gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare. And this why he is so often compared to Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to those leaders in our culture whose stirring vibrations still resonate throughout our short history.

Are you rolling your eyes and scoffing? Fine by me. But you gotta wonder, why has, say, the JFK legacy lasted so long, is so vital to our national identity? Yes, the assassination canonized his legend. The Kennedy family is our version of royalty. But there's something more. Those attuned to energies beyond the literal meanings of things, these people say JFK wasn't assassinated for any typical reason you can name. It's because he was just this kind of high-vibration being, a peacemaker, at odds with the war machine, the CIA, the dark side. And it killed him.

Now, Obama. The next step. Another try. And perhaps, as Bush laid waste to the land and embarrassed the country and pummeled our national spirit into disenchanted pulp and yet ironically, in so doing has helped set the stage for an even larger and more fascinating evolutionary burp, we are finally truly ready for another Lightworker to step up.

Let me be completely clear: I'm not arguing some sort of utopian revolution, a big global group hug with Obama as some sort of happy hippie camp counselor. I'm not saying the man's going to swoop in like a superhero messiah and stop all wars and make the flowers grow and birds sing and solve world hunger and bring puppies to schoolchildren.

Please. I'm also certainly not saying he's perfect, that his presidency will be free of compromise, or slimy insiders, or great heaps of politics-as-usual. While Obama's certainly an entire universe away from George W. Bush in terms of quality, integrity, intelligence and overall inspirational energy, well, so is your dog. Hell, it isn't hard to stand far above and beyond the worst president in American history.

But there simply is no denying that extra kick. As one reader put it to me, in a way, it's not even about Obama, per se. There's a vast amount of positive energy swirling about that's been held back by the armies of BushCo darkness, and this energy has now found a conduit, a lightning rod, is now effortlessly self-organizing around Obama's candidacy. People and emotions and ideas of high and positive vibration are automatically drawn to him. It's exactly like how Bush was a magnet for the low vibrational energies of fear and war and oppression and aggression, but, you know, completely reversed. And different. And far, far better.

Don't buy any of it? Think that's all a bunch of tofu-sucking New Agey bulls-- and Obama is really a dangerously elitist political salesman whose inexperience will lead us further into darkness because, when you're talking national politics, nothing, really, ever changes? I understand. I get it. I often believe it myself.

Not this time.

Karmic antennae? I admit that I have none, but my bulls**t detector works just fine. And who are these "spiritual wise ones"? Names please! I want to check references.

If you thought the Republicans owned faith based politics, then you haven't seen nuthin yet. If Morford is any indication (I know, he's from San Francisco, which isn't a very good place to find indications of the sensible middle), then Obama's presidency will ooze faith like you haven't seen before. And I do mean ooze. Mike Huckabee's treacly video Christmas Card may have spiked your blood sugar, but Morford's New Age slather threatens to bring on full blown type II diabetes. Can you imagine four years of listening to Obama love talk from such an adoring press corps?

If he isn't outright seducing them, Obama is at least convincing members of the press of his inevitability, such as with this missive from Bryan Appleyard's Thought Experiments:
For me, the two most significant statements about Barack Obama were made by John McCain and Rupert Murdoch. McCain said he was surprised such a young man should embrace so many failed ideas. Coming from a Republican with a wrecked economy, horrific over-spending and a hopeless war to his party's credit, this might seem a bit rich. But what he meant, of course, were the ideas of the postwar centrist consensus that dominated Western politics. This assumed big, economically pro-active governments with mildly redistributive and social engineering programmes. This began to unravel in 1968 and collapsed completely with the elections of Reagan and Thatcher. This neo-liberal phase (combined with the linked but contradictory neo-conservative phase) dominated politics until now - Blair and the Clintons (impossible just to say 'Bill' any more) were both neo-liberals and Blair became a full-blooded necon. Brown doesn't matter. McCain is obviously aware of this historical perspective - Pat Buchanan bangs on about it on TV with varying degrees of coherence and consistency - and is trying to pretend the 40-year reign of the right is intact and sustainable. This means, of course, that he is no conservative, but I've been through that one before. It also means he's in denial about the significance of Obama, which is where Murdoch comes in. Murdoch effectively endorsed Obama in an interview in which he described him as a 'rock star'. This means he has a market reality that is at least as, if not more, potent than any amount of political head-clutching. A big article by Joshua Green (taken from The Atlantic) in The Independent today (but unfindable on their web site) shows how this has happened through his fund raising techniques. These have effectively destroyed the old model of party funding. What Obama means is the forty-year ascendancy of the neocon, neolib right is over and something new, so far indistinct and not necessarily left is rising to take its place. One can see this clearly as long as one doesn't attach any ideological passion to the idea. Neither is right, each corrects the other, that is all that needs to be said. But the emptiness of the McCain sentiment combined with the market savvy of Murdoch's remark make it clear, to me at least, that, with Hillary out of the way, Obama is unbeatable.

Some of us take our cues from "spiritual wise ones", others from Rupert Murdoch. Some of us flip coins or read tea leaves. None of the standard indicators have worked at all this year, so I don't put much faith in anyone's prediction of inevitability.

There may be rational reasons to vote for Obama, especially if his politics align with yours. But I get the feeling that even for his natural ideological constituents Obama's appeal is emotional and irrational. Equally irrational is this impulse to concede to Obama's mighty inevitability, whether one wants to see him elected or not. A week earlier Bryan blogged about the unknowable future and also published his essay on Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the Times Online, who makes the point in his book "The Black Swan" that uncertainty and randomness rules the world in spite of the misguided forecasts of the expert classes.

Perhaps with the increase of uncertainty in the past four years, with the unexpected (by the experts) rise in the price of oil, and the unseen (by the experts) collapse of the housing market people are willing to embrace someone who is brimming with self confidence and hope just to feel certain, for once. The wish for certainty is a powerful, seductive force, as Andrew Sullivan explains in Time magazine. We have a charismatic, attractive man selling certainty, why not give in to him? You know you want to. Things can't get worse.

Can they?

Update: The seduction meme has run far and wide in the pundit sphere. Elizabeth Scalia finds the perfect metaphor for Obama - the Trophy Wife:
Upon taking control of Congress in 2007, the Democrats found themselves running simpatico with those terminally elite nations who sniffed with disdain at American individualism while being strangled by the tentacles of their own statism. Emboldened by these openly chummy alliances, and sensing a GOP in the mood to slit its own wrists and die, the Democrats looked across the breakfast table at Hillary Clinton in her sensible clothes and felt a little disappointed. There she sat — a hard worker, smart, always willing to do what it took to win. By and large, she’d been a good helper, delivering the pretty little votes, raising the pretty big dollars, entertaining, organizing, laughing, gazing, and lying when she had to, for the good of the family.

But in the dazzling company of the left-elites, she looked … old, and worn. She could be a little shrill, and a terror with a lamp or an ashtray. She was shrewish and nagging — forever reminding everyone that she had sacrificed. If some smiled to see her arrive at a party, the smile was perfunctory; they only listened to her tiresome policy talk until they could murmur an excuse and find a prettier, livelier corner with prettier, livelier companions.

Then they spotted — Obama! He was young, pretty, and had a pleasing voice. He looked good in jeans and had just a touch of edginess about him when he smoked. He seemed born to be looked at. Not much real experience in the hard political world — a few turns around the dance floor with glamorous-seeming men — but he appeared eager to learn, eager to get ahead, and because he stood for almost nothing, he would be easy to lead. He hadn’t accomplished much of note, but trophy wives don’t need thick resumes.

As a trophy wife, Obama would be content to let the Democrats pull out of Iraq; Hillary might actually suggest they stay. Obama would be able to sell the socialized health care Hillary couldn’t pull off. Most importantly, Obama would schmooze and photo-op with the elites for whose approval the Democrats so desperately yearned; Hillary was untrustworthy, there. She might snub Ahmadinejad and, like Bill Clinton before her, pledge to jump into a trench with a rifle to defend Israel. Obama would smile and look good while doing neither.



Blogger Susan's Husband said...

"How else to explain this essay"

Mike Morford is a well known moron?

Note that support for Obama seems always involve reality dysfunction as well, on a major level, such as Appleyard's "wrecked economy" and "hopeless war". It's not enough for Obama to be a "Light Worker", but he must face True Evil as well.

P.S. The "names, I want names!" is the first thought I had upon seeing Morford's spew. Because if you've never actually seen one, how would you know Obama is one?

June 08, 2008 4:41 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Q. Why has, say, the JFK legacy lasted so long?
A. The media made him one of their own.

Q. JFK wasn't assassinated for any typical reason you can name?
A. He was killed by the mafia who didn't like his muscling in on their territory.

Here's a statement I can agree with, "While Obama's certainly an entire universe away from George W. Bush in terms of quality, integrity, intelligence and overall inspirational energy ... ". The president has all those qualities while Obama is a modern-day Elmer Gantry.

Appleyard evoking Buchanan shows he has little insight into U.S. politics. Buchanan was always on the fringes, but by now he's has less than zero influence on anything.

No matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. How much worse? If Obama's elected, it may take quite a while before we learn how bad. Perhaps not until Michelle runs on her own.

June 08, 2008 6:07 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I'm not sure he's so well known, but this is the crowd that will come out of the woodwork once Obama is elected.

Steyn has a good essay on Obama today , along the same lines. It's not looking pretty. Since I don't listen to political speeches for health reasons, I haven't been aware of just how off the charts silly and self absorbed Obama has become. This is from his victory speech:

I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people… I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal… This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation…


The JFK legacy is not just lasting, its metastasizing. Morford, judging by his photo, wasn't even alive to see Bobby Kennedy. He certainly wasn't a "light worker", he was a naive cold warrior who almost got us into a nuclear war with the Soviets. The Kennedy mythos lives on the memories of memories of impressions.

June 08, 2008 9:17 AM  
Blogger Chris Dornan said...

A very good article (and I am an Obama supporter). Of course the Marford article is full of bullshit.

Folks should be skeptical, certainly where charismatic leaders are concerned.

Ambinder quoted the section you did and compared it to a passage in revelations but I don't buy it. Of course if you are sceptical of what the climate scientists have been saying then that section of the speech won't make any sense at all. If you accept that they have a good handle on the situation and are saying pretty coherent things then Obama's pitch makes perfect sense. We need to find a collective will to safeguard the biosphere for future generations. Charismatic leaders may be scary (all power is scary) but they are sometimes needed. Now would be an excellent time for a good charismatic leader who understands the challenges, IMHO.

I do take care to parse what Obama says. One area that I have paid attention to is what he says about Iran, and he does seem to have a really good strategic understanding of the issues. I can't say the same at all of Clinton and McCain whose whole approach I find downright scary. (Robert Gates is clearly on Obama's wavelength here.)

Obama may be charismatic and intelligent but he also seems to be cool and grounded. Whatever about the lunatic fringe of his supporters he and the people around him seem to be pretty reality based.

June 08, 2008 9:40 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

The failure of free market capitalism is going to elect Obama and that's all there is to it.

People worried about their jobs, homes etc. vote the party in power out, and by October, that will be a majority.

None of this other stuff matters, although personally I would never vote for a man who did to his grandma what Obama did to his.

June 08, 2008 11:39 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

And, so much for the cool, grounded portion of today's program. What was the other part? Oh, yes, inspirational energy.

June 08, 2008 1:22 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

From the cool and grounded campaign's website :
How the Jewish Lobby works
right on schedule:

Do click on the 'Here's what it looked like a few minutes ago' link in the second post.

June 08, 2008 5:25 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Mr. Dornan;

If you think Obama has a good grasp on the strategic issues surrounding Iran, we'd love to hear what that is. Talks without preconditions? Talks with preconditions? Different from the Bush Administration how, exactly? Everything I have heard from Obama on Iran leads me to the exact opposite conclusion, that he has no idea whatsoever what's going on there or what to do, but is just winging it, shifting his position moment by moment to dodge the incoming flack.

June 08, 2008 5:30 PM  
Blogger Chris Dornan said...

Susan's Husband: I have written up an article, Obama’s Realist Iranian Policy, on why I think Obama's Iranian policy makes sense. It concludes:

"Barack Obama statements suggest that he (and his advisers) are adhering to the realist school’s analysis and will pursue this line. We do not need more reality-challenged Neoconservative belligerence."

June 09, 2008 5:35 PM  
Blogger Chris Dornan said...

Harry Eagar I think has it about right, though that doesn't mean that we shouldn't take an interest.

I utterly fail to understand the comment about Obama's grandmother, unless it is code for I don't want to vote for a black man but this is now the coded way of expressing it.

Obama was trying to illustrate a point in a difficult speech. It betrays a really prickly, hard and unforgiving attitude towards someone trying to explain an excruciating difficult and sensitive point. Did you hear him dedicate his whole primary campaign to his grandmother. Oh wait that was all a cynical move to repair the damage, right. What a hall of mirrors!

joe shropshire: Let the smearing begin. But it didn't knock Obama out when the Clinton-Democrats and the Republicans were joined in it so it would be well to try and find a more substantive line of attack.

Obama comes across as unflappable and his campaign looks about as tight and well organised as Bush's was. You would do well to take it seriously.

June 09, 2008 5:53 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Chris, when someone quotes your new friends back to you word for word, and you consider yourself to have been smeared, you might want to consider getting some other friends. The very best time to do this is when they are still brand new friends.

June 09, 2008 11:06 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I posted a response to Mr. Dornan's post, but it hasn't shown up yet.

June 10, 2008 7:05 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

So, a man gets up in front of a crowd to talk about race, and for his horrible example he picks his sick granma?

Who isn't a racist, although her husband seems to have been.

I wouldn't do that to my granma. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. My concern is that if he is that cruel to his own granma, how cruel would he be willing to be to mine?

There's nothing difficult about Obama and race. He's like Frank Collin. It's an Illinois thing,

He'd better hope the economy is in the tank, because I had lunch with some granmas last month in Florida. They get what Jeremiah Wright is about.

June 10, 2008 9:16 AM  

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