Lexington (the Economist) offers quite a warning in the title of a recent post, “The Obama Cult: If Barack Obama Disappoints His Supporters, They Will Have Only Themselves To Blame.” Lexington tells us that appalled by the hubris of presidential candidates in 2007, ‘“a libertarian scholar called Gene Healy wrote “The Cult of the Presidency”, a book decrying the unrealistic expectations Americans have of their presidents. The book was written while Barack Obama’s career was still on the launch pad, yet it describes with uncanny prescience the atmosphere that allowed him to soar.”
Lexington need not have reminded us of the excesses of Obama supporters during his campaign:
Mr Obama has inspired more passionate devotion than any modern American politician. People scream and faint at his rallies. Some wear T-shirts proclaiming him “The One” and noting that “Jesus was a community organiser”. An editor at Newsweek described him as “above the country, above the world; he’s sort of God.” He sets foreign hearts fluttering, too. A Pew poll published this week finds that 93% of Germans expect him to do the right thing in world affairs. Only 14% thought that about Mr Bush.
And we are also given to know that Obama has been complicit in the adoration of his followers:
Perhaps Mr Obama inwardly cringes at the personality cult that surrounds him. But he has hardly discouraged it. As a campaigner, he promised to “change the world”, to “transform this country” and even (in front of a church full of evangelicals) to “create a Kingdom right here on earth”. As president, he keeps adding details to this ambitious wish-list. He vows to create millions of jobs, to cure cancer and to seek a world without nuclear weapons. On July 20th he promised something big (a complete overhaul of the health-care system), something improbable (to make America’s college-graduation rate the highest in the world by 2020) and something no politician could plausibly accomplish (to make maths and science “cool again”).
After pointing out the several aways in which Obama has already fallen short in fulfilling his campaign promises, Lexington offers this conclusion:
All presidential candidates promise more than they can possibly deliver. This sets them up for failure. But because the Obama cult has stoked expectations among its devotees to such unprecedented heights, he is especially likely to disappoint. Mr Healy predicts that he will end up as a failed president, and “possibly the least popular of the modern era”. It is up to Mr Obama to prove him wrong.