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realclearworld

It’s a lose-lose proposition for Obama’s supporters

On November 4th, Barack Obama just might win the presidential election. But regardless of whether he wins or loses, the vast majority of his supporters will lose. If McCain wins the election, they will feel the sting of watching the candidate they placed all their hopes in be defeated. But it stands to be much worse for them if their candidate wins.
By placing their hopes and aspirations in the hands of Obama, they have in effect transferred the individual faith they have in themselves to another person. A person who has promised to make their dreams come true for them. No longer will they have to fight, or struggle, or even work to achieve their dreams; Obama promises to do it all for them. But sooner, rather than later, they will realize that Obama can never deliver on this impossible promise. It is then when they will experience a pain much greater than they can imagine; the pain of realizing that you gave up not only your most sacred dreams and hopes to someone else, but that you gave up hope on yourself so that someone else can do it for you.
Fouad Ajami has an excellent editorial in the Wall Street Journal. He sees a disturbing similarity between the throngs of Obama supporters and to what he used to see in Egypt during his youth.

My boyhood, and the Arab political culture I have been chronicling for well over three decades, are anchored in the Arab world. And the tragedy of Arab political culture has been the unending expectation of the crowd -- the street, we call it -- in the redeemer who will put an end to the decline, who will restore faded splendor and greatness. When I came into my own, in the late 1950s and '60s, those hopes were invested in the Egyptian Gamal Abdul Nasser. He faltered, and broke the hearts of generations of Arabs. But the faith in the Awaited One lives on, and it would forever circle the Arab world looking for the next redeemer.
America is a different land, for me exceptional in all the ways that matter. In recent days, those vast Obama crowds, though, have recalled for me the politics of charisma that wrecked Arab and Muslim societies. A leader does not have to say much, or be much. The crowd is left to its most powerful possession -- its imagination.

* * *

The morning after the election, the disappointment will begin to settle upon the Obama crowd. Defeat -- by now unthinkable to the devotees -- will bring heartbreak. Victory will steadily deliver the sobering verdict that our troubles won't be solved by a leader's magic.

Unable to deliver anything of substance, Obama has built his entire campaign, and for that matter, his career, on addressing only the ethereal. This gives him the latitude to be everything to everyone. To the steelworker, he portrays himself as a blue-collar man; to college students, he talks of intellectual hypothesis; to the regular Jane and Joe on the street, he transforms himself into a regular Barry. He accomplishes all of this not by providing substance but by instead providing himself as the vessel, the incarnation for all these people to realize their dreams.
It will be a sad day indeed when Obama’s supporters realize he is really just merely a mortal.

24 comments to It’s a lose-lose proposition for Obama’s supporters

  • readytoshoot

    Funny, didn't the juice drinkers in Cuba have the same dreams in regards to Castro? I tell ya, people never learn. I forgot the saying in Spanish, but people usually only learn from thier mistakes through the bumps and bruises they get from the mistakes...Well ladies and gents, we got one hell of a bump coming our way.

  • I believe the Spanish saying you are referring to Ready is, "nadie aprende por cabeza ajena."

  • Henry Louis Gomez

    Caudillismo. Obama is going to make everything OK. He's superman.

  • pixelchik

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  • Cubanita in Colorado

    Right on, Alberto. Lately, I've talking --a heck of a lot of talking-- about la estupidez del caballero montado en un caballo que vendra a salvarnos y a resolver todos nuestros problemas.
    That's the biggest lie modern societies all over the word have mistakenly built to themselves, only to ended up worse. CAM and Vargas Llosa talk a lot about this in their two books of El Manual del Perfecto Idiota Latinoamericano.
    And, it is true that nadie escarmienta por cabeza ajena. The examples of Cuba, Venezuela, Korea, Rusia, you name are right at the obamistas noses and they still don't see it.
    I've heard a lot of people saying they should get what they're asking for, so they can learn the lesson the hard way.
    But I personally think that it is an extremely high price to pay for a lesson to realize that something (or someone for this matter) is useless.
    The core values of this country are in peril and all those things that have prompt so many people from all over the world to come to this country to start a new life are int he brink of extinction. There are, simply put, way too many important things at stake. (I would just add nother saying: Nadie sabe realmente lo que tiene hasta que lo pierde)
    That's why today I voted for McCain/Palin.

  • designfla

    I think you misunderstand why so many people support Obama. In fact, it is the opposite of your thesis. It isn't about "transferring faith to another person," or in "a person who has promised to do it all for them."
    From the start of this campaign, Obama has said "we are the ones we have been waiting for." A major point of the campaign is that it is about the supporters, not about Obama.
    You may believe this or not, you may think he is lying or not, but you can't claim that his supporters are doing anything but believing that this campaign is about them, not Obama.
    That is the basic tenet of his candidacy: it is about us, not about him. And sure, you might have had to drink the Kool-Aid to believe it, but it is wrong to think that the message has been about what Obama can do for the country.

  • Designfla:
    In your words explaining that support for Obama stems from a campaign that makes it not about the candidate but about his supporters, you prove my point. Interestingly enough, you chose to quote one of Obama's most propagandist and empty lines: "we are the ones we have been waiting for."
    Just exactly who have we been waiting for? Obama offers no explanation other than to imply that he is the personification of who we have apparently been waiting for. If you think like Obama, if you act like Obama, if you vote for Obama, then you are the one that we have been waiting for.
    Again, it is a perfect example of how Obama uses emotion, not substance, to attract support. "We are the ones we have been waiting for," is an ambiguous proclamation at best, and attaching any real and tangible meaning to it would severely diminish its effect. So it is no surprise Obama prefers to keep it as ambiguous as possible.
    All politicians use slogans and emotion to sway voters, but there comes a time when a politician has to actual say something of substance. After almost two years of campaigning, the only substantive statements Obama has ever made have been his gaffs, like meeting with rogue dictators without preconditions and "spreading the wealth around." Other than that, the bulk of his speeches have been flowery prose and populist rhetoric.
    If Obama's empty but exceptional oratory skills gives you that tingle down your leg, that is fine, Designfla. I imagine that for some, that is enough. For me, however, I prefer substance: it is better to eat my own ham sandwich than to hope for a steak dinner that someone promised to appear out of thin air.

  • thinwhiteduke

    After almost two years of campaigning, the only substantive statements Obama has ever made have been his gaffs, like meeting with rogue dictators without preconditions and "spreading the wealth around." Other than that, the bulk of his speeches have been flowery prose and populist rhetoric.
    Alberto, do you read this site? Your colleagues wouldn't accuse him of socialism and "redistribution" if they weren't responding to policy positions. Do you read National Review? Do you read newspapers? I partly understand your confusion: after the biggest governmental bailout in history, the GOP candidate supporting the buyout of every bad mortgage in the country, and clips like this shadowing him, it's tuff bein' a cowboy.

  • Thinwhiteduke, do you read the text that you quote?
    All of Obama's statements that can be considered substantive have all, for the most part, been either gaffs or speeches he made in the past that he hoped would not resurface.
    I used to think the "thin" in your name meant you were a slim guy, like the artist you pilfered the name from, but I see it refers more to your arguments.

  • designfla

    My understanding of "we are the ones we have been waiting for" is to step up, take responsibility, don't look to politicians to solve our problems.
    Stop waiting for Washington to solve our issues, look to ourselves. Look to each other, get involved and make something happen.
    Self-reliance, pulling your own weight, taking responsibility.
    That is what I and most others interpret that statement to mean.

  • It is interesting that you and others are interpreting that statement to mean less government and more individual responsibility for Americans, Designfla, especially when Obama is running on the premise that it is a government run by him that will redistribute the wealth and fix all of this nation's problems.
    I am not trying to be facetious, but I find it hard to understand how anyone familiar with Obama's penchant for government intervention would interpret such a statement to mean the opposite of what he believes in.

  • thinwhiteduke

    All of Obama's statements that can be considered substantive have all, for the most part, been either gaffs or speeches he made in the past that he hoped would not resurface.
    A "gaffe," according to Webster's Desk Dictionary, is a "social blunder," like your colleagues' habit on this site of calling out "fucking morons" when reasonable arguments are raised. But we'll put that aside.
    If we accept your argument that O's statements have "for the most part" (a delicious phrase) been either "gaffs" [sic] or speeches he hoped he wouldn't make, then we can certainly classify Macca's "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" line and his "Hardball" appearance in 2000 (in which he embraces the kind of 'socialism' you accuse Obama of holding, but you didn't even have the intellectual honesty of refuting) as substantive policy.

  • designfla

    Well, one of us is wrong. It is possible that the "penchant" you describe is real. I simply submit that many are so hell bent on magnifying the areas where they find Obama repugnant that they misinterpret one of the basic ideas behind the campaign. (That misinterpretation certainly happens on the left. I see it happen against McCain every day and it repulses me.) I am saying that your analysis of the disappointment that Obama supporters will feel when they "realize" what he actually is does not reflect how many supporters view what this election means.
    The fact remains that many Obama supporters see his call to action, his "we are the ones we have been waiting for," as a call for individual action, not more oppressive government.
    You can decide whether Obama feels this way or not, but I think a majority of his supporters do.

  • Designfla:
    The inspiration for my post was the editorial I read in the WSJ which I quoted. If you haven't read it, please do and then perhaps you will understand what I meant.

  • Thinwhiteduke, you would not know intellectual honesty if it slapped you in the face. Therefore, to be lectured on that topic by the likes of you is quite "delicious," as you would say.
    By the way, what flavor Koolaid are they serving at FIU these days?

  • designfla

    "...Save in times of national peril, Americans have been sober, really minimalist, in what they expected out of national elections, out of politics itself ... But that American sobriety and skepticism about politics -- and leaders -- set this republic apart from political cultures that saw redemption lurking around every corner...."
    I read the editorial. Without beating a dead horse, I think that the quote from the WSJ above perfectly exemplifies what I think many Obama supporters are about.
    It isn't a popular media story line, but the Obama fanatics I talk to are energized and enthused that this candidate continually says this campaign isn't about him, it is about them. They are tired of promises, they are tired of politicians saying that they can fix the problems, etc. They see a campaign that is calling on them for service. Not a cult of personality, but a call to be a part of the solution. You may see Obama supporters differently, but I am in the thick of them, at campaign offices, at meetings and that is the story line here.

  • thinwhiteduke

    Thinwhiteduke, you would not know intellectual honesty if it slapped you in the face. Therefore, to be lectured on that topic by the likes of you is quite "delicious," as you would say.
    By the way, what flavor Koolaid are they serving at FIU these days?

    Answer the question. How do you respond to McCain's position in that video, or, for that matter, his previous support of tax cuts? It isn't too tough. It might even require some nuance from you.
    You always know the quality of a mind by the cliches it repeats. I've read the "Koolaid" thing here many times. For the record, I instructed a student last week who was called a "racist" by his obnoxious professor last week for admitting he supported McCain to report him to the department chairperson if he didn't apologize. You must be so unacquainted with the rigors of thinking that you assume "FIU" thinks as stolidly as you. What a joke! The institution whose president named his residence after Ronald Reagan and, in defiance of every kind of warning, campaigned openly for George W. Bush in 2000! Despite our administrators, we keep our opinions to ourselves, because we take our students seriously.

  • thinwhiteduke

    designfla, don't bother. With a couple of exceptions, posters here aren't interested in arguing with you -- they want to Look Tough for their community, as if showing any nuance or admitting to a contradiction is an admission of weakness or, I dunno, secret Communist sympathy.

  • Designfla:
    First of all, don't bother listening to the Thinwhiteduke; he is more interested in calling attention to himself than arguing the issues.
    Secondly, the premise of the WSJ editorial is how Arabs have put their faith in persons and leaders to make things right, instead of themselves and he sees the same happening here. He may be right, he may be wrong, but on a whole, his argument is quite convincing.
    I do not doubt that you, and perhaps some you know, individually, have come away with what you have mentioned to be the message of the Obama campaign. But in general, I tend to agree with the author of that article that the vast majority--"the crowd"--has come away with a much different idea. I do believe that we are seeing a cult of personality when it comes to Obama. He has said nothing of substance yet commands incredible support. That, in my book, is a cult of personality.

  • Thinwhiteduke:
    I am sorry that my cliches are not to your liking. But speaking of "quality of minds," I find it quite telling how you feel the need to quantify yourself by telling an anecdotal story of a student being harassed by a professor and all about your institution's president choice of name for his residence. Truth be told, your choice of moniker never led me to believe you were a transvestite, but apparently, to you at least, the names one chooses says a lot about a man.
    A transvestite professor at a university with a president who names his residence after Ronald Reagan; now that is what I call "a joke."
    But I digress; let's get back to the topic at hand. My post, and the WSJ editorial I quoted, has nothing to do with McCain. It has everything to do with Obama. Yet, as expected (you should really work on being more original), you prefer to talk about McCain.
    Tell you what; give me an intelligent and knowledgeable response to what Fuad Ajami wrote (you are a professor, after all), and then we can talk about the extraneous issues.
    Take your time and chew on that for a while. Also, in the interest of keeping the readers of this blog engaged, try a little harder to keep this discussion interesting. I refuse to do it all by myself.

  • thinwhiteduke

    Let's do it then.
    (1) I know Ajami only from a faint memory of his tousling with Samuel Huntingdon in the early nineties. This column, for all its finesse, says essentially, "Mistrust the mob. The mob is dangerous." No shit! But he barely mentions how the degraded state of our politics, in collusion with the media, turns politicians into personalities -- he wants to believe that Obama is the culmination of this trend, instead of being yet another link. When he writes, "A leader does not have to say much, or be much. The crowd is left to its most powerful possession -- its imagination," I nod and think of JFK and Ronald Reagan too.
    (2) You and others consistently underrate the intelligence of Obama followers. You and Ajami assume they're sheep, eager to be led. In fact, you actively collude with Obama in pushing his narrative (italics mine). The people I know voting for Obama don't believe in The One, a messiah, or a Mr. Fix-It. In the words of one friend, posted on a message board yesterday: "I'm sure Obama will take any vote he can (I would), but why does it have to be about `having a chance at making history'? Why can't these people vote for Obama because he is an excellent candidate who happens to be black instead of a black candidate who happens to be excellent?" He goes on to say, "I like Obama because he offers solutions to problems that I like." My parents, who are not fools, say the same about McCain. I don't argue. Why would you impugn the Obama fans' motives? Do you believe what you see on TV?
    (3) Ajami praises the values of the working classes with one hand and condescends to them unknowingly with the other. To wit: "It was no accident that the white working class was the last segment of the population to sign up for the Obama journey. Their hesitancy was not about race. They were men and women of practicality; they distrusted oratory, they could see through the falseness of the solidarity offered by this campaign. They did not have much, but believed in the legitimacy of what little they had acquired. They valued work and its rewards." My paraphrase: the proles might be poorly educated and not own much, but they mistrust pretty words." Well, guess what? That's not what the polls have consistently shown. That's not what's made Obama so attractive to them -- they trust his handling of the economy and the sobriety of his character.
    Of course, should Obama win on Tuesday, you and Ajami might dismiss the American people as stupid and uneducated, a bunch of dupes who fell for pretty words. To summarize Ajami and your worldviews: the American people are either too smart for fall for tricks, or too dumb to see through them. Which do you believe? You can't have it both ways, my friend. Are you prepared to accept the results on Tuesday?
    As for me, I'm still not ready to vote for Obama. I don't trust his party, was disappointed with his equivocation on the FISA compromise, and bitter that he won't go far enough to push for the revocation of the Defense of Marriage Act. Short of scanning my ballot for the benefit of the Babaluvians, I can't be more honest than this.
    Finally, you'll have to explain the "transvestite professor" remark. David Bowie wasn't a transvestite, and neither am I.
    I await your reply, delivered in the spirit of moderation and sobriety that I expect in a debate.

  • thinwhiteduke

    PS: Ajami's mistrust of the mob mentality is precisely why I don't post bumper stickers, T-shirts, and other props of political propaganda: they're embarrassing. Why would you provide free advertising to two amply funded entities like the RNC and Democratic Party?

  • Ziva Sahl

    Thin, interesting choice of a word, sobriety. You refer to Obama's "sobriety of character,” you’ve got to be kidding. He's spent his adult life immersed in radicalism. Please.

  • Thinwhiteduke:
    I appreciate your effort to engage in civil debate. To me, civil debate is much more fun. Now on to your points:
    1)I agree with you that the media has something to do with the beatification of a candidate. But one would expect no less from such an institution. Although they have been trying their best to reverse the old adage that "art imitates life" for a long time now, they are still beholden to ratings and the cash flow it represents. However, the Obama "fever" we are seeing in this country, I believe, is a direct result of his method of campaigning, which is highly propagandist and full of rhetoric and emotional, yet empty, images. The media's role has been that of an unabashed deliveryman of his talking points more than anything else.
    You mentioned JFK and Reagan as similar candidates who connected with Americans. And to a certain degree, you would be right; both of those men had exceptional communication skills. But there is where the comparison ends. I will address this comparison in more detail in my response to your second point.
    2) As you mentioned, JFK and Regan both were similar to Obama in terms of their ability to achieve a direct connection with Americans and bring out in them intense support. But the main difference between these two men and Obama is that the American public knew much more about them than they do about Obama. JFK was a war hero from a respectable family with a long history. Reagan had a long history in California and was well-known for his ideas and his unflappable devotion to America and the freedom it represents.
    Obama, on the other hand, has a very thin resume. Not because he hasn't done much, but because it has been kept under wraps. Perhaps most of the people you know have solid reasons for supporting Obama, but the vast majority of the ones I have spoken to can only cite their reason as "he is going to bring change." When asked to detail this change, more often than not I get a blank stare. That is fine, everyone is entitled to vote for whomever they feel most comfortable with, but I find it quite scary when such an important decision for this country is being made based on a feeling with few, if any, facts.
    3) I cannot say that I am all that knowledgeable of exactly when and how the white working class began shifting their support to Obama, but I find this third point of yours to be, well, pointless. Ajami, you claim, disparages the working class by calling them stupid, but what did Obama and Biden do to Joe the Plumber for asking a pointed question? I did not get the impression from Ajami's editorial that he thought citizens are idiots, but I did get the impression that he felt they could have a tendency to allow themselves to be led by those they feel, not know, can lead them to better times.
    If Obama wins on Tuesday, I will accept the results just like I would expect Obama supporters to accept the results if McCain wins. You and I know, however, that if McCain wins there will be a contingent of Obama supporters that will refuse to accept the outcome and will most likely turn the election results into a bitter and racial issue.
    As far as thinking that the American people are stupid if they elect Obama, what difference does thinking that have with thinking the American people were stupid for electing George Bush, twice, and allowing him to, as Bush-haters like to say, run roughshod over our constitution? I would like to think that you disagree as vehemently with Bush-haters as you do with Obama-haters. But when it comes to you, Thin, I just don't know.
    As far as the transvestite professor remark goes, perhaps you are too young to remember Bowie's transvestite stage. In all fairness, it did not last long, but it sure was memorable to those who saw it. You can see an example here:
    http://blog.news-record.com/staff/culture/Bowie%20in%20frock.jpg