Inauguration Day Party Pooper

OK, I was really going to remain silent today, because no one seems to want to hear a rant about today's imperial coronation.  But as I sit here watching the press coverage and waiting for John the Baptist to show up, and as I observe the general cultish hysteria and the swooning of normally serious adult people, I just can't help myself.  For a libertarian like myself, it's like watching people line up at 3am to be the first to be in the store when McDonald's switches its fountain drinks from Coke to Pepsi.   Heck, I was creeped out by the cult following of Ron Paul this year, a politician I agree with a lot, so I certainly am going to get the willies from the love-fest for an admitted statist like Obama.

I am not enough of a historian to speak for much more than the last thirty years, but the popularity of non-incumbent political candidates has typically been proportional to 1) their personal charisma and 2) our lack of knowlege of their exact proposals.  Seriously, can you name any other difference (on the plus side) between Obama and Hillary other than these two?  We forget, but GWB was the unknown newcomer in 1992.  As was Clinton and Carter.  Reagan was an exception, but was running against an incumbent who really had a terrible four years, and Bush I was an exception as well, though he was running against one of the weakest candidates and campaigns the Democrats have fielded in 50 years.  Folks are excited about Obama because, in essence, they don't know what he stands for, and thus can read into him anything they want.  Not since the breathless coverage of Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone's vault has there been so much attention to something where we had no idea of what was inside.  My bet is that the result with Obama will be the same as with the vault.

There is some sort of weird mass self-hypnosis going on, made even odder by the fact that a lot of people seem to know they are hypnotized, at least at some level.  I keep getting shushed as I make fun of friends' cult behavior watching the proceedings today, as if by jiggling someone's elbow too hard I might break the spell.  Never have I seen, in my lifetime, so much emotion invested in a politician we know nothing about.   I guess I am just missing some gene that makes the rest of humanity receptive to this kind of stuff, but just for a minute snap your fingers in front of your face and say "do I really expect a fundamentally different approach from a politician who won his spurs in .... Chicago?  Do I really think the ultimate political outsider is going to be the guy who bested everyone at their own game in the Chicago political machine?"

Well, the spell will probably take a while to break in the press, if it ever does -- Time Magazine is currently considering whether it would be possible to put Obama on the cover of all 52 issues this year -- but thoughtful people already on day 1 should have evidence that things are the same as they ever were, just with better PR.   For God sakes, as his first expenditure of political capital, Obama is pushing for a trillion dollar government spending bill that is basically one big pork-fest that might make even Ted Stevens blush, a hodge-podge of every wish-list of leftish lobbyists that has been building up for eight years.  I will be suitably thrilled if the Obama administration renounces some of the creeping executive power grabs of the last 16 years, but he has been oddly silent about this.  It seems that creeping executive power is a lot more worrisome when someone else is in power.

It has been suggested by some that today is less a cultish corronation but a big victory party in the battle against racism.  Well, I am certainly willing to accept it on those terms.  I have been arguing for years that it is time to declare victory on the worst aspects of race and gender discrimination, and move on to problems of interest to all races (like individual freedom or giving kids options to escape crappy public schools).   Unfortunately, I fear that too many folks in power are dependent on the race/gender/class wars continuing, so you and I may think we are declaring victory, but those with power over our lives have not.

Update: Just to be clear, I am not reacting to Obama per se, but to the reaction to Obama. Had someone pointed a gun at my head and forced me to vote for Obama or McCain, I would have voted for Obama. He is no worse than other politicians (I hope) and likely better than most.

  • http://that-xmas.livejournal.com/ Xmas

    What has me most worried is the fact that Bush wasn't roadblock for anything that the Congress wanted to pass. He vetoed, what, a handful of bills passed by Congress.

    Sure, Bush had an agenda to push, but he certainly seemed willing to play ball with whomever was in charge of Congress.

    Really, the biggest complaints about the Bush presidency are HOW he ran the massive bureaucracy. What people fail to see is that the problem is the massive bureaucracy that can be steered in ways they won't like. The system is the problem, like a firetruck with no brakes. The guy behind the wheel has some choice in who gets run over, but someone is going to get run over.

  • http://zoominac.com Matt

    This kind of worship really bothers me too. All I hope is that all of these people hold Obama accountable to all of their grand expectations in 4 years. Then maybe (hah!) people will realize that its not that government won't give them all of these things - its that they can't. Individuals are the only ones that can do this, and that is where the power should lie; with individuals, not government. I trust you were as concerned as I with the collectivist "We are One" theme to the concert thing yesterday?

  • morganovich

    it seems that the american presidential cycle is characterized by a recurring trend which is: run on vague promises and little substantive history (which is why so few long serving senators ever win), get elected, fail to deliver.

    here is a great chart of the popularity of the post war US presidents:

    http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-presapp0605-31.html

    as can be readily seen, popularity tend to peak early, then dissolve as tenure lengthens.

    i suspect this is a reflection of how easy it is to promise, but how difficult it is to deliver and the voting public's inability/disinterest in subjecting election promises to the "can they really do it" criteria.

  • Gloobnib

    At the risk of losing my man credentials... Does anyone else sense that Obama’s campaign and coronation eerily mirrors the plot to Evita? I hope I’m dreadfully wrong, but fear that we are about to see Peronist Argentina come to the USA.

  • Minerva

    He is our Princess Diana.

  • DirtyJobsGuy

    Would there have been the same effect if a different black man had been elected? For example if Colin Powell had run when he was (nominally republican), would the same emotions have been generated?

    I don't think so. There would have been respect and proper congratulations, but not the celebrity factor. Only an Obama (or similarly a Caroline Kennedy if she could speak) acting without proposals or programs could do this. It's precisely because he was a blank slate who pandered at Trinity Church, and to every other group that craved association with a celebrity.

    Yep, he's a male Evita? (Juan Peron was at least some kind of real leader).

  • http://negativerailroad.com foxmarks

    Barry appeared as a blank slate because nobody made a serious effort* to decode him. He wrote an autobiography, and a socio-political wish book. He gave us a camera inside the vault the whole time. But his obtuse prose style made it far easier to quit examining and just believe.

    *O.K., Steve Sailer made a serious effort-- http://www.lulu.com/content/4576443

  • http://geistbearbrewing.com Thomas

    Well said.

  • http://www.humanadvancement.net/blog Kyle Bennett

    "I guess I am just missing some gene that makes the rest of humanity receptive to this kind of stuff,"

    --

    "I have no vocal chords as I screamed them out yesterday at the game as the Cardinals beat the Eagles to win the NFC championship. "

    Don't throw your shoulder out patting yourself on the back... :-)

    And don't go telling me "well, that's different..." What we saw today is how alike they are.

  • J

    I was not one of those people swooning over Obama...it disgusts me. And I find it interesting that you brought up Ron Paul, with whom I do agree with on a number of points, but who also has a fanatic following similar to Obama (which also gives me the willies). Yesterday I was pondering what people might be acting like if it was RP, not Obama being elected, and I think it would be a similar reaction (although I would much rather have RP as president ).

    Anyway...it was interesting to say the least to watch today's procession with Obama being elected and all of that.

  • Dr. T

    Unfortunately, I fear that too many folks in power are dependent on the race/gender/class wars continuing, so you and I may think we are declaring victory, but those with power over our lives have not.

    I would love to see a survey of blacks that asks the following question: "What percentage of the votes for President Obama came from black people?" The correct answer is approximately 17%. I will be that most blacks will answer 50% or more, because they will refuse to believe that whites votes put Obama into office. In fact, if only one-third of black voters had gone to the polls, Obama still would have won.

    The reason I bring this up is my belief that black claims of white racism will not diminish even though the whites in our country have, for the most part, dropped their racist beliefs of the past. But, victimhood plays well for many, including much of the black population, and they won't let go of it even with Obama as President.

  • Ed

    I think part of Obama's appeal is that he is a liberal politician, and that he is a loyal husband. Hence, he's a Bill Clinton who won't hit on the interns and thus not cause embarrassing scandals. This allows the press to run puff-pieces on his family life in order to promote him as a great president. This may sound superficial but so was Obama's campaign rhetoric.

  • http://AReasonableMan.com/ Gil

    Thank you for this post.

    I feel exactly the same way.

    I'm glad that so many people are happy today, but I'm concerned that a lot of damage will be done before people realize that he won't achieve what they hope and have come to expect.

    What happened to the reality-based community?

  • darkbhudda

    I feel sickened by the media and people worship of Obama.
    I won't be surprised to see massive posters of him, "spontaneous" parades and video screens for his weekly address to the nation.
    And don't get me started on his idea of turning his volunteers into an army of domestic corps.

  • jon

    Had someone pointed a gun at my head and forced me to vote for Obama or McCain, I would have voted for Obama.

    really? i'd have drawn my own gun.

  • morganovich

    obama is just a particularly extreme example of the common and recurring problem we have in our presidential elections. candidates run on fuzzy platforms that are long on rhetoric, calls to nebulous action, and warm fuzzy ideas and short on actual implementable proposals.

    then, they get elected and cannot deliver.

    take a look at this history of post war presidental approval ratings:

    http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-presapp0605-31.html

    in nearly every case, they spike right near the beginning of the term and then drop the longer a candidate stays in office.

    this time around is just a particularly potent example as the new president has the thinnest CV in a hundred years and has made more sweeping promises than most.

    that said, he also has the advantage of massive negativity at the moment (and he has done his share to enhance sentiments of impending economic doom and gloom) this has set the bar very low. so if the world turns out not to end (or to be as badly off as described), he is poised to take the credit. disingenuous? perhaps. but certainly shrewd. obama did not get to the top of the greased pole of chicago machine politics by accident.

  • James Malanowski

    Well said, sir. I have never seen a candidate get so far by saying so little in my life.

    As far as the racial issues go, those who push the racial-activism agenda will not be satisfied with Obama ... he's not black enough. I just heard the other day that they're already saying that he's got no Slave Blood in him so he "owes us nuthin'"

    Wake me when it's over.

  • DKH

    Speaking of Coke vs. Pepsi:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=216538&title=changefest-09-obamas-inaugural

    I must say I'm surprised at your choice in the Obama-McCain, either-or, head-to-head matchup. McCain would seem, to me, to have a much better history of fighting government expansion. On the other hand, maybe your choice is based more on foreign policy preferences, or social policy, or other preferences.

  • H.R. Holm

    Regarding Ron Paul: unlike our Messiah Obama, Congressman Paul
    has spelled out specifics for years, and they remain consistent.
    Constitutional government the way the founders intended; government
    respect for the privacy of the individual; strictly limited taxation
    and government spending, minimal involvement in foreign countries'
    affairs; a military limited in size and scope to actual protection
    of U.S. territory and its population; tight rein on foreign military
    alliances; no participation in major conflicts without an *actual*
    **Declaration** of war as stated in the Constitution; reasonable
    border and immigration controls that our immediate neighbors will
    respect; and, of course, "hands off our guns!!"

    Now, what was, or is, Mr. Obama's equivalent list, hhmmm? (And keep it Constitutional, please. On second thought, betcha can't.)

    Obama's coronation as the second U.S. Emperor (FDR was the first)
    lacked only the equivalant of 'Sieg Heil', whatever that might be
    in 'Americanese'.

  • Zach

    "At the risk of losing my man credentials… Does anyone else sense that Obama’s campaign and coronation eerily mirrors the plot to Evita? I hope I’m dreadfully wrong, but fear that we are about to see Peronist Argentina come to the USA."

    I said almost exactly the same thing 3 weeks ago. Specifically, "And The Money Kept Rolling In" seems to be Obama's mantra.

    "They equate Peron with Mussolini, can't think why."

  • Lindalou

    I had several people in my life who were appalled that I didn’t have my eight year old watch the inauguration yesterday. “It’s history in the making, how can you deprive him of watching history?”.

    Let me first say that there is a big difference between acceptance of a new president that I may not have chosen but who is indeed, the president and deserves to be respected as the leader of the free world. We know that his success means our success and the nation’s success.

    If I was going to watch the inauguration yesterday, it would have been for one reason and one reason only. For the fact that our country so effortlessly transfers power to the next elected leader with no struggle and completely accepts this amazing democracy that we have come to love, trust and cherish in this great land. For our country to so freely, without restraint be able to elect our first Inter-racial President; only 40 years after Rosa Parks moved from the back of the bus is truly remarkable!

    However, there is a big difference between accepting, respecting and praying for a new leader and celebrating a new leader. To celebrate this event would mean that I had some sort of joy about this choice; and I’d be a hypocrite to say that I do.

    After the Inauguration ended, I did read up on the highlights of this infamous day in our history. I felt reassured of my decision to not have my son watch the days events after seeing the following yesterday:

    The unprecedented number of private jets that were flown to this inauguration in a time where I am supposed to be teaching my son about a very troubled economy and more importantly how “Global Warming and pro-environmentalist thinking” are some of the very issues that got this president elected. To explain this article below to my 8-year old would have shown him a lot of hypocrisy!

    http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/2009/01/20/obama-inauguration-sets-record-for-private-jets/

    Then, I read the benediction given by Reverend Joseph Lowery:

    Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

    Didn’t we just accomplish that day that he is speaking of? Were blacks asked to get in back as a result of this inauguration?

    How would I explain to my son that this was a celebration to show how we have grown from slavery and from racism when the Reverend speaks the most inappropriate racist words in the form of a prayer to our nation? And if you think that this speech was not scanned first by our newly elected president, you are truly naive.

    Lastly, I'm glad my son didn't hav eto watch the incredible disrespect shown to the our outgoing president.

    As the outgoing president stood on the capitol steps, crowds began to boo him loudly singing “na na na, hey, hey, goodbye!” (see full article below)

    http://www.scoopthis.org/2009/01/president-bush-mocked-at-inauguration/

    How would I explain to him that we are asked to respect and honor our newly elected president regardless of whether or not we agree or disagree with his plans for the future; however, it’s okay for liberal America to treat our outgoing president like garbage!

    We will continue to lift up our new president in prayer as often as we can. We pray that God’s hand be on his life with every difficult decision that he will have to make. We pray that God’s voice be clear to him at times when many voices are shouting their demands and requests at him, that he will do what it right and what is just.

    Although we were not called to celebrate the day; we are called to pray and be respectful of our leaders!

  • http://ninecents.net Michael

    Well said! I feel a similar way and it was hard to see so many people partying and not really participating myself. On the victory party against racism I'm glad to participate. Even then, the office of President is just a symbol. When a minority group is advancing to offices in real productive institutions that create wealth for themselves and their communities (like, a business maybe) thats the real barometer for racial equality in my mind.

    As for Obama himself, I think he's great at what he does, politics, and thats just fine. But no politician, not Ron Paul or any who promise my political desires could seduce from me such sanctity by my worship, as so many have for Obama and for that matter Ron Paul.

  • Scott Wiggins

    I have never before seen so many disconnected from reality as I did observing those who were watching the inauguration...From an analytical perspective, I thought most people had thought processes that run something like A+B=C. Meaning that if A and B are known quantities then we solve for C...But, I've learned that at least 52% of the electorate are not bound by such thinking. It seems that even though Obama supporters know that he has no record of accomplishment, and that he is in fact a blank slate still spouting campaign slogans and promises. They are "certain" that he is going to save the world. Even if I liked the guy, my mind just does not work that way. I'm thinking that we just elected our first cult figure...As usual, the democrats are playing a dangerous game with our Republic. Their passion for counterculturalists, eye-candy over substance, class warfare, and communists sympathizers threaten to undo two hundred years of stable democracy...