The curtain has come down on what can best be described as a brief un-American moment in our history. That moment began in the fall of 2008, with the great financial panic, and gave rise to the Barack Obama phenomenon.
The nation’s faith in institutions and time-honored ways had cracked. In a little-known senator from Illinois millions of Americans came to see a savior who would deliver the nation out of its troubles. Gone was the empiricism in political life that had marked the American temper in politics. A charismatic leader had risen in a manner akin to the way politics plays out in distressed and Third World societies.
I unpacked that last bit – and realized that that’s the bad news.
It’s not that we, The People, elected an unqualified, inexperienced empty suit as the most powerful person in the world; we’ve done that before. It’s not that we allowed a full-court media press to get him elected over a slate of more-qualified candidates based purely on conjured-from-whole-cloth star power.
It’s that this is how “the People” operate in festering third world hellholes; they look not merely to government, but to government run by outsized personality cults, to “save”them.
If you change the “America” references in Ajami’s post to “Argentina”, the Obama story becomes painfully similar to the Juan and Eva Peron story.
Juan was a socialist demigogue who was elected several times; after his death, his vacuous but attractive wife Eva took over, winning over Argintinean (and world) glitterati, but instituting gigantistic, prosperity-leaching socialist programs that left Argentina – which had clambered up to the lower reaches of the “First World” – sodden with debt and helpless by the time the economy tanked in the seventies.
There is nothing surprising about where Mr. Obama finds himself today. He had been made by charisma, and political magic, and has been felled by it. If his rise had been spectacular, so, too, has been his fall. The speed with which some of his devotees have turned on him—and their unwillingness to own up to what their infatuation had wrought—is nothing short of astounding. But this is the bargain Mr. Obama had made with political fortune.
“Don’t cry for him, Chicago”.