The cult of change

Paul Krugman today on the Obamaniacs:

I won’t try for fake evenhandedness here: 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. We’ve already had that from the Bush administration — remember Operation Flight Suit? We really don’t want to go there again.

  • Ryan

    Paul Krugman is trying to single-handedly counteract the anti-Hillary media bias. It seems like his last nine columns have been bashing Obama, or, in this case, his supporters. As an Obama supporter, I find it quite annoying and unprofessional. But considering the Times has Frank Rich and, to a lesser degree, Maureen Dowd doing the same thing to Hillary, I guess I can’t complain.

  • Jeff,

    Calling Obama supporters (like me) collectively a “cult” repeatedly (as you’ve done on your blog now at least twice) does not make it true. It’s a really cynical thing to say, actually. Why is it so hard to believe that the American people are smart, and they’re coming to an educated decision about who their candidate should be?

    This “cult” smear of the Obama camp is something I’d expect to be ripped out of the Hillary Clinton playbook, so I’m not surprised. I’m sure you’re aware of the race war her campaign has tried to incite between Latinos and blacks. My only reaction to that is: Ack!

    Next you’ll be enlisting Anonymous to add us on their hit list after the Church of Scientology, right? ;-)

    Please, Jeff, give us a believable reason to support your candidate. Extol her virtues. Heap praise on her policies. But for gawd’s sake stop the Obama bashing!

  • Steve

    “Most of the venom”

    “Their hero or nobody”

    Look, I don’t deny that there may be some truth in what he says, but what Obama supporters is he talking about? What venom? And where can I find all these Obama supporters who want their hero or nobody? Those are pretty breathtaking and sweeping generalizations.

    My heavens. I fear his axe was grinding so loudly that he couldn’t even hear himself losing the nuance and evidence that usually is the mark of his writing.

    I know we all are capable of getting caught up in a frenzy, and I am sure I have been guilty of this on some occasions in my support of Senator Obama.

    But to see a columnist like Paul Krugman go off the deep end in a muddle of straw-man amateurishness is, well, embarrassing. Who? What? When?

    It’s the first column of his that I have read that might have led a well-intentioned editor to call him and simply ask:

    Paul, I like the passion, but who who were you talking about? We don’t do straw-men, composite portraits of any diverse constituency at the Times. Tell me what Obama supporters were saying what to whom.

    Show me the venom.

    I don’t deny some truth in what he says, and that some Obama supporters

  • David

    This is becoming tiresome. The Clintons=Big Money.

    That is why I voted for Obama (contributions from ethanol producers obviously notwithstanding) and against the Clintons–yes, both of them–and that’s why I suspect many have and will continue to as well.

    It should be readily apparent by now how much damage Wall Street, the Fed, and the entire house of cards financial system we’ve developed over the past 30 years have done to the country and world through a combination of greed, fraud, gross incompetence, and financial deregulation.

    The Clintons did as much as anyone to create this monster so I think we’re much better off with someone else.

  • aspertame

    “…the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality….we really don’t want to go there again.”

    Respect the heck out of Krugman, but that’s jaw-dropping irony. I’ve voted in five Presidential elections, twice for Bill Clinton, and yes, I do know – precisely – where I don’t want to go again. For me, Obama’s main selling point is that I don’t exactly have a lot of choices left.

    Time to get off the campaign trail & away from the cameras. Those rapturous true believers crowding around the candidates at their venues are supposed to be representative of what, exactly?

  • jamesk

    “Krugman makes a lot of bold claims, and then fails to substantiate every single one of them.”

    Krugman is venom masquerading as reasoned commentary. Seems to be going around.

  • washingtondc

    Where is the information that supports his claim that Obama supporters are more venomous than Clinton supporters? There was also no supporting statement on his opinion on Obama’s universal health care plan. This seemed like opinion with no fact behind it – at least none that was shared with the reader.

  • Crawford

    It’s not Swiftboating…it’s, wait for it…SwiftCulting.


    Anyway, I, for one, am quite happy to admit that, as a member of the cult of man and God, I support Obama. So freakin’ there!

  • jamesk

    The majority of Democrats I know, myself included, have a preference for Obama or Hillary, but honestly would be happy with either. There are a few people on the fringes of both camp (like Jeff and Krugman on the Hillary side) who seem bent on taking a page from the Limbaugh/Coulter playbook (nb. McCain) and seem bent demonizing the other candidate and making this a personal, venomous battle. Hillary is not a demon. Obama is not a demon. I wish these fringe commentators would contribute to a civil debate rather than trying to destroy the candidate they don’t prefer and hurting the Dems for the general election. The line between Krugman, Rush, and Jeff is very thin, indeed.

  • RE “We’ve already had that from the Bush administration — remember Operation Flight Suit?”

    George W. Bush has done many things wrong in the past seven years. One of the least of these is using the military to film what would have been a campaign commercial if the Iraq War had been going better in 2004.

    The problem with the Bush Administration isn’t that some of his supporters are too enthusiastic. It’s Bush’s policies. Obama would have different policies. Obama wants to close Gitmo and reduce the number of troops in Iraq, among other things.

  • Jaffa — how right you are. The idea that George Bush has been operating a personality cult these last seven years is utterly unhinged. What is Krugman smoking?

  • Andrew Tyndall –

    Do you believe that an Obama Adminstration would be similar to a Bush Administration? If so, how?

  • Has it been so long since this country has seen any real change that we have forgotten what it looks like?

    If Obama is fostering a “cult of personality,” then what do we say about Martin Luther King? The Kennedys? Teddy Roosevelt?

    No leader can create change without getting the people to change with him. For this country to change, we need to get rid of the cynicism that has infected us like a virus, and start believing that together, we can change things.

    Of course, there will always be people like you and Krugman who are scared of change, biting at the heals of those who are doing the changing. If you like the same corrupt, dishonest, cynical government we’ve endured over the last few decades, then please vote for Hillary. That way you can keep in your comfort zone, complaining about all the things are that are wrong in this world, and wishing that someone will change it for you.

    If you aren’t part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

  • Do you believe that an Obama Adminstration would be similar to a Bush Administration?

    Both Bush and Obama make it easy for Democrats to increase their representation in Congress, unlike Bill Clinton who presided over a Republican resurgence.

  • Harrison

    Ironic, considering on this blog it’s been nothing but mocking and bizarre pronouncments about Obama, and very little actually in support of Hillary.

    Krugman is a Hillary partisan, it’s not surprising that Obama supporters would email him negative comments about his views. How many of them are actually full of “hate”? I’d like to see some evidence. It’s a ridiculous, contrived piece of writing that damages Krugman’s credibility.

  • chico haas

    On the contrary Kirk, the country went through real change with the bombing of the World Trade Center. We’re still adjusting to it. And while our first black President would be culturally significant, how would that change where we find ourselves today? Mr. Obama is still just a man. Is he somehow a Frank Capra character whose appearance in the White House ends arms dealing, poverty, sectarian violence, global warming, global cooling, the health care crisis, energy dependency, tribal warfare in Africa, a jittery economy, nuclear proliferation, coal-firing plants in India and China and a hundred other pressing issues?

    Mr. Obama has a spark, that’s for sure. And he could inspire the nation, quite possible. But charisma alone won’t solve anything. I look forward to hearing all his plans in the coming months.

  • Obama will face all kinds of nasty choices if he wins the White House.Many of his supporters will feel cheated. Those who voted against him vindicated. But to understand what’s going on this year, you only have to answer one questions. Who is the superior politician? I remember thinking the same thing about Clinton 16 years ago.He was swimming amid reports of cheating and draft-dodging, and still making his case, and I thought, wow, with all of his flaws, this guy is a once in a generation politician. I only hope Obama makes more of his skills.

  • @ Eric Jaffa:

    How will an Obama Administration be similar to the Bush Administration?

    They will both be led by inexperienced, idealistic politicians (granted with different ideologies). This combination of inexperience and idealism can take us down some very dark blind alleys — as Bush has shown.

    How else will they be similar? Both will have benefited politically from the relentless right-wing campaign of Billary-bashing. Bush was the anti-Clinton of 2000 and Obama is the anti-Clinton of 2008.

    Right-wing attack dogs planted and carefully nurtured these seeds of hatred against Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama is happy to harvest them in order to get elected.

    Evan Rudowski

  • jeff,

    boy you & paul krugman are convincing – the clinton machine is so much better than the bush machine

  • Interesting to see Lakoff’s analysis:

    This nomination campaign is about much more than the candidates. It about a major split within the Democratic party. The candidates are reflecting that split. Here are three of the major “issues” dividing Democrats.

    First, triangulation: moving to the right — adopting right-wing positions — to get more votes. Bill Clinton did it and Hillary believes in it. It is what she means by “bipartisanship.” Obama means the opposite by “bipartisanship.” To Obama, it is a recognition that central progressive moral principles are fundamental American principles. For him, bipartisanship means finding people who call themselves “conservatives” or “independents,” but who share those central American values with progressives. Obama thus doesn’t have to surrender or dilute his principles for the sake of “bipartisanship.”

    The second is incrementalism: Hillary believes in getting lots of small carefully crafted policies through, one at a time, step by small step, real but almost unnoticed. Obama believes in bold moves and the building of a movement in which the bold moves are demanded by the people and celebrated when they happen. This is the reason why Hillary talks about “I,” I,” “I” (the crafter of the policy) and Obama talks about “you” and “we” (the people who demand it and who jointly carry it out).

    The third is interest group politics: Hillary looks at politics through interests and interest groups, seeking policies that satisfy the interests of such groups. Obama’s thinking emphasizes empathy over interest groups. He also sees empathy as central to the very idea of America. The result is a positive politics grounded in empathy and caring that is also patriotic and uplifting.

  • beloml

    Since we know nothing of BHO’s actual plans, all we have to work with is his personality.

  • Carlton —

    Triangulation, Incrementalism, Interest Groups — an interesting insight. These tactics, I think, were correct ones for the Democratic Party to adopt at a time when it was having to play defense against a triumphalist, ruthless conservative ascendancy. They are the techniques of the counterpuncher and none was better at deploying them than Bill Clinton, himself.

    They seem ill-suited at a time when conservatism is the ideology whose adherents are unsure of themselves, their coalition in tatters, engaging in mutual acrimony. Rather than performing triangulation, Rodham Clinton looks like the one being triangulated between anti-Clinton conservatives and aspirational progressives.

    What you call “values” and “principles” and “bold moves” and “positive politics” and “patriotic and uplifting” — and what Krugman, the BuzzMachine and others dismiss as the cult of personality or insubstantial charisma or well-meaning group hugs — seems to represent the rhetorical and organizational shift that a political coalition adopts when it perceives itself to be on the offensive rather than playing defense.

    Rodham Clinton seems to conceive of the Republican Party as the muscular Limbaugh-Gingrich-Rove machine it was before the rout of 2006. Obama treats it as a shell of itself, stripped of its power to intimidate and force Democrats on the defensive.

    It is no surprise then, that Obama tends to appeal to the upscale and younger portions of the Democratic coalition, the demographics that would tend to feel more expansive about all aspects of life, not just politics. Rodham Clinton’s appeal to older, poorer, immigrant voters embodies a defensive caution towards life’s vicissitudes.

    There are more older, poorer, immigrant voters in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania than have been seen in recent primary states. They will be the ones to decide whether they perceive conservatism to be in tatters, allowing your “positive politics” to take hold, or whether cautious incrementalism is still the order of the day.

  • Jonesy

    I dont know alot about Obama’s positions on the issues, but Ive seen HIM referred to as the incrementalist in articles. Health care would be one example, where Hillary is actually much bolder. He seems to me to be very cautious, sort of the same way triangulation works. I wouldnt expect a big turn to the left from an Obama administration. Thats not even what he’s running for, so he wouldnt have a mandate anyhow.

    Im not much of a fan of Lakoff. He seems to suggest that you can win as a leftist if you just frame the issues correctly. I dont think voters are that stupid.