09 December 2009

Score one for the adults

Before Thanksgiving, I marveled at the cults of personality surrounding both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin and noted, as I have previously on this site, that the deification of these unabashedly self-absorbed political figures evinces the decline of the thinking man in American politics. Put simply, I've written many times that if you will go to the mat for either Obama or Palin, you need to put down the kool-aid.

Yesterday, Salon's Glenn Greenwald said the same thing:

"[These people] are not just random, politically apathetic people selected off the street. They are politically interested an engaged enough to spend hours waiting to see Sarah Palin. They have deep convictions about politics and overwhelming faith in her judgment and abilities. And yet they have virtually no ability to justify any of her specific views on issues. They really don't care about those. What they know is that she's a culturally familiar and admirable person. They share her views and know she's a good person, and thus trust that she will 'do the right thing' on specific issues regardless of whether they agree or even understand what she's doing. ..."

Greenwald marveled that the same phenomenon is true of Obama:

"The similarity between that mentality and the one driving the Obama defenses ... is too self-evident to require any elaboration. Those who venerated Bush because he was a morally upright and strong evangelical-warrior-family man and revere Palin as a common-sense Christian hockey mom are similar in kind to those whose reaction to Obama is dominated by their view of him as an inspiring, kind, sophisticated, soothing and mature intellectual. These are personality types bolstered with sophisticated marketing techniques, not policies, governing approaches or ideologies. But for those looking for some emotional attachment to a leader, rather than policies they believe are right, personality attachments are far more important. They're also far more potent. Loyalty grounded in admiration for character will inspire support regardless of policy, and will produce and sustain the fantasy that this is not a mere politician, but a person of deep importance to one's life who -- like a loved one or close friend or religious leader -- must be protected and defended at all costs."

Greenwald finishes: "This is all about cultural identification and personality admiration, and has nothing to do with the factors that ought to be used to judge political leaders."

Bingo. And so it goes with the American experiment as the 2010 midterms loom.

Our country is helmed by perhaps the most ill-prepared man for the White House in a quarter-century, whose approval ratings have dropped more precipitously than any president's since polling data became a tool 70 years ago, and whose major domestic policy initiatives have proven to be complete and utter failures. And the de facto leader of the opposition party is a former governor of a tiny state who inexplicably quit in the middle of her only term, was unable to answer a question about what books she reads, and who once claimed foreign policy expertise because part of her state borders an uninhabited part of Russia.

If you need evidence of America's intellectual decline, look no further than its leaders.

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