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The Return of 1970’s “Feelings” Liberalism

This explains a lot:

Ganz says that his and Wageman’s training system works well for the Obama campaign, because it’s designed to channel the enthusiasm of voters who are emotionally inspired by orators such as Obama. This appeal to the right brain contrasts with most of the recent Democratic political campaigns, which have appealed to voters’ logic by selling concepts and policies.

Obama organizers, and some volunteers, enter the campaign machine through weekend training sessions called “Camp Obama.”

The sessions vary in size from groups of 40 to more than 300, held variously at the campaign’s Chicago headquarters, in rented office spaces, union halls, churches or on college campuses.  In addition to leadership and motivation training, the camp features storytelling sessions, where the volunteers are broken up into small teams organized by congressional district. Each member of these groups is asked to tell personal stories in two minutes, in the same format Obama used in his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention.   

“Ultimately, your story should move people to specific action by painting a detailed picture of how things might be different if we act, giving us hope that if we act now we can make real that different future,” explains the training manual.  

Hat tip to Socialmedian.

All that is missing is Alan Alda reading from Robert Bly’s Iron John.

32 Responses to “The Return of 1970’s “Feelings” Liberalism”

  1. Mithras Says:

    So, the "reality based community" is acting on emotion, not reason? You have a better memory than that. The Republican party’s appeal to its base has been largely logic-free since Reagan. Recall such emotive phrases as "welfare queen", "partial-birth abortion", "tax relief", "support our troops", "class warfare", etc. It’s called framing and marketing. We’ve just caught up with you guys on how to craft a message. And the "wimp" frame you’re using in this post got old back in the early 90s.

  2. Smitten Eagle Says:

    Fair enough, Mithras.  However, you must recognize the emotional cult of personality that is sprouting in the shadows of Obama is indeed a new development.  I have emotional connections to my country, but may God strike me down the day I have such connection to a distant politician that is often billed as the messiah, but is really just a deeply flawed man.
    Obama isn’t being marketed as a politician.  He’s being marketed as a one who can "heal" the country (as if countries can be healed), one who is "transforming," "redemptive," and other emotional-religious imagery.  We’re not talking about a specific policy here…we’re talking about a man.
    This is very disturbing.
    Check this out:  http://obamamessiah.blogspot.com

  3. Gunnar Says:

    Sure, and all the "conservatives" are missing is anyone with a better than junior high level understanding of economics that is willing to vote for them.Air quotes are for times when "conservative" == spending $6 trillion that you don’t have.So they lost the business community, cf. Financial Times and The Economist,"Somehow Ronald Reagan’s party of western individualism and limited government has ended up not just increasing the size of the state but turning it into a tool of southern-fried moralism."http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displayStory.cfm?story_id=12516666

  4. A.E. Says:


    There isn’t anything exceptional about the way Obama is being marketed. See here: http://www.amazon.com/Cult-Presidency-Americas-Dangerous-Executive/dp/1933995157

  5. Lexington Green Says:

    Gunnar raises other issues instead of responding to the issue at hand.  I call that an admission that he has no response
    AE says, no, SE, this happens all the time and links to a book about executive power.  Again, off issue and an therefore an admission of no response.
    The issue at hand is Obama’s appeal using religious-emotional imagery and language about his proposed actions as president.  This type of hting is not very common in our history, nor is the apparently very strong and widespread response he is getting to that message.  In particular, it is not common for a candidate to cultivate this type of thing himself. 
    In my lifetime I have not seen anyone try to do this as a presidential nominee.  I have watched closely every presidential election from 1980 forward.  This goes beyond a mere emotional appeal, which all candidates (who win) have to have, to some degree.  Historically, the people whom this rhetorical approach reminds me of are Huey Long, William Jennings Bryan and maybe to a degree Robert F. Kennedy. 
    What Obama is doing is troubling whether or not the GOP has imploded (and it has). 

  6. A.E. Says:

    What I mean to say is that emotional-religious imagery and the language of redemption are singular features of modern American politics. This is because our conception of the institution of the presidency as dramatically changed—as the office has tremendously grown in power and that of the other branches have receded–the emotional need for a singular Presidential personality has grown by leaps and bounds. Whether or not you think Obama’s usage of these appeals (I don’t, but at this point it’s purely a matter of opinion) is greater or lesser than the other modern presidencies, it’s an outgrowth of it.

    I think it’s time to start having a conversation about, rather than Obama or McCain (a conversation that will always skew partisan), the problem of why presidents must appear to be singular secular redeemers.

  7. Eddie Says:

    I think anyone who focuses on Obama (particularly conservatives) for this sort of "feelings" liberalism and "Obama Messiah" complexes (and I will admit I am not familiar with this 1970’s reference and need to learn more about it before judging it, which I am not in this comment) needs to explain what the heck was going on with Bush and many Republicans from 9/11 to about Harriet Myers. That is a Messiah complex/personality cult.

    Obviously, after Obama invades Pakistan or is forced to rescue Israel or something else anthema to some of the far left, I’m certain some of this messiah business will wear off.

    I find myself in agrement with A.E. on this though. This has been going on with some Presidents for decades now (did it start with Camelot?) and has been a harsh drag on others who could not fit the bill.


  8. zen Says:

    Time to catch up:
    Hi Mithras,
    You are misremembering Reagan. While he and Deaver/Baker/Gergen devoted a great deal of effort controlling atmospherics, their concern was for the visual imagery that colored the presentation. The content of Reagan’s speeches, like Carter, Nixon, Ford, LBJ etc. were primarily substantive, far more so than most pols today; Reagan simply made all the (from the public’s perspective) boring crap sound better. The "Crossfire" effect and shortening attention spans, descent into buzzword came mostly after Reagan as the duration of news soundbites dropped from 30 to about 7 seconds by the late 90′.
    I’m familiar with Lakoff’s theories. I’ll give you that "framing" works – though only to a degree – and has been used by GOP operatives at a particularly primal level. Lex has a point though; Obama’s handlers have ventured into a new frontier of inchoate emotionality normally associated with Holy Roller churches and crowds that see apparitions in paint stains on walls. I checked out the Obama Speech tweet-thread on Twitter last night – it was nonstop Obama supporters reporting weeping. I am NOT making this up. It’s fricking weird and speaks more to the audience following than to Obama, who is in reality, a fairly remote guy, emotionally speaking ( not unlike Reagan) who seems to have few, if any, close personal friends. 
    Agree with you on William Jennings Bryan in particular. Bryan drew very heavily on millenarian Christianity and symbolism in his political career.
    Let’s just say that George W. Bush has destroyed what Goldwater and Reagan built. Time to build something new.
    The 70’s was the height of cultural self-exploration and self-absorbtion – Esalen, EST, TM, the self-esteem movement ( ironically founded by a former top acolyte of Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden) as well as post-Vietnam, Watergate Baby liberalism

  9. munzenberg Says:

    The tactics might be new, but the strategy remains the same since the Greeks and Romans used it. Obama is using (or is speech writers and comms strategists are guiding him to use) deliberative rhetoric (http://rhetoric.byu.edu/Branches%20of%20Oratory/Deliberative.htm).It is considered the most powerful form of rhetoric, as it usually knocks the crap out of the ceremonial and forensic styles in terms of persuasiveness. It is also an excellent tool for stasis shifting (changing the burden of proof). For instance, let’s say candidate A also argued deliberatively; calling for change just as candidate B did. Then candidate A switches to ceremonial rhetoric for the rest of his campaign and exhorts the bad side of candidate B. Candidate B stays on topic with deliberative rhetoric arguing what is good for the future of everyone. Meanwhile A continues to bring up the past. Mix these rhetorical styles up with kairos (good timing and taking advantage of current events), appeals to emotion (http://rhetoric.byu.edu/Persuasive%20Appeals/Pathos.htm), and the target audiences (usually fence sitting voters and their own sides) you end up with candidate B winning out, as exhorting a good future for the masses wins out over the badness of one person in terms of pure persuasiveness. .And for those that believe that leftists don’t have a sense of religiousity and this is new creepy endeavour, I suggest you look into the history of leftism a little deeper. At their roots they are religious and also millenarianists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millenarianism). The first communist league was founded in conjunction with Christian socialists (google "league of the just") and many American versions of leftism and communitarianism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communitarianism#Influence_in_the_United_States) have their roots in religious sects (see the following: ‘The Chautauqua Moment: Protestants, Progressives, and the Culture of Modern Liberalism’ 1874-1920 by Andrew Rieser; The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism by George McKenna; Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War by Michael Burleigh. Or the following wiki articles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oneida_Community;  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmony_Society;

    The far left’s ideological ancestors are religious nutballs, the only difference between now and then is that modern far leftists don’t have a God . And this is coming from someone who leans slightly left.

  10. Ski Says:

    This is going to be a very interesting time period to live in. 

  11. fgdf Says:

    Okay, I read this blog sometimes. Zen, I like your non political posts, but your political ones seem to always be off the mark and catered toward your own political bias. You talk about Obamas team using emotion, and paint it as 1970´s liberalism. Really? Can you step out of your own sandbox for one minute? Why use an old template on a new situation? Explain that?

    What about Bush using emotion to get votes — and getting them, despite taking a giant crap on conservatism and his supposed campaign pledges? What about Reagan using emotion to get votes?

    Putting credentials and regular intellect aside:

    Let me ask you something, who had more social intelligence: Bush I or Clinton.
    Let me ask you something, who had more social intelligence: Carter or Reagan.
    Let me ask you something, who had more social intelligence: Bush II or Al Gore.

    Obvisouly, you can see the point.

    As far as who is the more emotional-driven candidate, clearly it is Obama, although some could argue that is is McCain. McCain of 2000 would have been faring a lot better and connecting a lot better I think than the McCain of today. McCain used to have a wicked sense of humor that,  I think, would play extremely well with the populace … but that was 8 years ago. In fact, I would vote for him had he not sold out completely. But hey, that´s politics.   Lakoff´s theories are good, but I just don´t understand why I took a guy like Lakoff to even write a bunch of books about it. Framing has been around a lot longer than Lakoff and Luntz. If your really interested in the topic, look into NLP.

    I am a salesman, which is the oldest profession in the world next to a politician, and I will tell you, only a minority of people sell things on 100 percent logic. The most successful people, the best salesman, are the ones who can ellicit emotion in their prospects. Though it tends to get more logical as the size of the account or client increases, and if millions can be on the line. Really big accounts need to be dealt with differently and less emotionally, I feel, but even then, emotion drives it. Point is, politicians are salesman. Reagan and Clinton were two damned good salesman, and the second Bush, particularly in 2000, was a lot better than gore in that department. Reagan, even in old age, was awesome, and Clinton — hate him or like him — seems to get better with Age. His speech at the convention was masterful pitch. (from a salesmans point of view)

    Where do Obama and McCain stack up?
    The whole labeling of obama as aloof, intellectual, not-on-of-us — sure it plays good to the base and gets them all pissed off, but when normal voters see him … I dont think not so much. Of course, we will see come election day.  And that is my opinion. This whole business of labeling him as a redistributor … too cerebral, in my opinion. Again, the base gets their talking points and they eat them up and get excited … but how many moderates really know marxism or socialism in detail? On more than one occasion, I´ve got in arguments with somebody who labeled Obama has a socialist … you wanna know what I asked: ¨Okay, he is a socialist … Can you define socislims for me? Since he is a socialist, please give me some details?¨ No answer. Same deal with Obama being an Arab.

    McCain did terrible in the debates because he was being too abstract, to beltwayish with all his line-item veto remarks and pork barrel comments. McCain, in presenting his case to the debates, got too detailed. Meanwhile, Obama talked about what he was going to do for those watching it.  Again, Obama scored on the emotional level better than McCain, I think.

    I just dont understand this whole movement by the right to criticize Obama´s organization when this is nothing really new at all. Politicians that win more votes than the other guy — in this day and age — win those votes by hitting a chord on an emotional level. 

    Right now, McCain is using negative emotion, trying to use fear and, really, whatever he can to stop Obama´s Momentum. Obama is trying to inspire people. Emotion works, but we will see who wins the day. Hope or fear. I seriously doubt — outside intellectuals and the base — really will buy into a lot of the redistribution crap, although the McCain plant, Joe the Plumber, seems to be a step in the right direction toward humanizing the McCain camp better. I have a hunch though it could backfire, because a lot of moderates I know think he is a plant, just like i Do. 

    Another thing worth noting. It has been 8, long years. A lot of bad stuff has happened. You have kids coming of age, being told that America is great, America is great, yet having a leader that — frankly — doesnt embody anything that these youngsters were taught in school.  These kids have never known an FDR or a JFK or a REAGAN or any insipriational politician on either side of the aisle. They have never seen a true leader in their lives.  That said, it is easy to see all these people being moved by Obama. In a typical civics class, a lot of the great speeches of the past or studied — what great speech has Bush given. What great thing has bush done? Even with all these mistakes, Bush could have turned it around, I think, by presenting himself as a leader, by taking responsibility, etc. Instead, whenever something bad happened, whenever his adminstration did something wrong — did he own up to it. No. Always a scape goat. Always an excuse. Always a stonewall. Deep down, I think Bush is a good man, but like Carter — a terrible, terrible leader. Some young Americans have never known what it is like to be truly inspired by somebody, to be truly inspired that yes, their country can be great. Is it any wonder that Obama has a huge following. People want to be inspired, people want to be asked to serve their country. Bush could have asked us to conserve, to serve in the military, to help out with the war effort, but instead he did not. Had he, I think things would be a lot different, and in fact, he might still be somewhat popular. But he didnt.  For the last eight years, nobody asked anything of the American public. Is it any wonder why Obama has such a strong movement. Some guy came around and asked for help. He asked them to be part of a movement. People want to be asked.

    I write such a long post because this is a really interesting trend. All these writers on the right, writing about Obamas movement, how he is using psychology and blah, blah, blah. Why do we need a lakoff or a luntz to explain these things? Why do we need the aforementioned author of the article in question?

    Obama is not using anything new, aside from the internet. Obama just asked people to partake in his cause. It is so obvious. In sales, people don´t tell you that they want to buy something; you have to ask for the order. If you don´t have the balls to ask for the order, you will not make the sale, plain and simple. It is not rocket science like these columinst and writers seem to think.

    Overall, great blog, but your politics blind you sometimes.

    -Salesman and Salestrainer, 25 years and going.

  12. Ben Says:

    "The issue at hand is Obama’s appeal using religious-emotional imagery and language about his proposed actions as president."

    Err. W? Have you been living on Earth for the past 8 years? Use of religious-emotional imagery? Did you miss the whole ‘W as divine agent’ plotline after 911? Did you miss Jesus day during W’s campaign? "Faith-based" was not a phrase invented after the big W’s election. Bush was most definitely sold using "religious-emotional imagery and language about his proposed actions as president". Maybe you were a bit lax, lex in your choice of phrase and do have a point, but I’m not sure what it might be. I think you are probably just senstive to the use of religious language by the other side, just as I was during W’s campaign and reign.

  13. CKR Says:

    As an Obama supporter and regular reader of this blog (although not the article linked, sorry, just too much to do this week!), let me try to define the emotions that I think are being badly misinterpreted as unthinking feeling. And let me refer (just once) to the reactions of the audiences at Sarah Palin rallies.
    Now that last is slightly unfair. The purpose of political rallies is to raise a level of unthinking emotion that will carry the voters/emoters through to the ballot box, and to show those outside the rally the level of support for the candidate. The same goes for Obama rallies, of course. Yes, some people are overcome, and they express it in different ways; but this is not to be taken as the baseline that supporters of any candidate are operating from.
    Previous commenters have covered the disaster of the last eight years. Some of the emotions we Obama supporters feel are hope for possible relief from constant worry about what crazy thing will happen next; only most recently, we can cite the incursion into Syria. Relief from the worry that a random brain-hiccup in the White House (or dastardly intention of the OVP) will lead to another war or even nuclear disaster. Anything in that range seems possible with the Bushies.
    But that is not the most of it. Although some have managed to rouse high emotions for the last two Democratic presidential contenders, they have not had the personal presence or eloquence or even policies that most can feel enthusiasm for. Obama speaks well and with feeling, and his policies are generally good; not everything I could want, but part of his power is an inclusiveness that makes us aware that politics involves not always getting everything one wants and that politics requires respecting those differences of opinion and outcomes. Another emotion I am feeling is concern that the McCain campaign has shown contempt for that traditional American political principle and that the demonization will continue after the election, no matter who wins. The country simply cannot bear a continuation of that hate-campaign.
    And there is a personal side to it. While the Republicans try to make Obama into someone alien, his story resonates with many of us who lived through the civil rights part of the sixties. We may have known someone like his parents and what they went through. We hoped we could live in a world where the arbitrary limitations forced onto some Americans would be lifted. This is the part where my eyes mist and I can be, I suppose, quite irrational. I will cry on election night if Barack Obama is elected because that election will represent such a hopeful step for America and the culmination of some dreams. It’s not just the skin color: it’s his personal story and his intelligence and character. We are so lucky, and perhaps we will be even luckier next Tuesday.

  14. Lexington Green Says:

    No, my point is that Bush did not run as some kind of post-political messiah figure. 
    Bush was forthright about his religion, but he did not have people putting him up as the Jesus Christ of that religion.
    I do think the tone of Obama’s campaign is different from anything I have seen in my lifetime watching American politics. 

  15. Chuck Says:

    I agree with CKR. At this point of the campaign, I hope Obama wins just for the fact that, if he wins, it would be a huge victory over identity politics. It would be a great chance to move beyond identity politics. A victory over retarded wedge issues, and baseless, guilt by association attacks. I mean, c´mon, Zen — do you actually believe some of this crap they are saying about him? That he is an arab, a socialist, a limosuine liberal, a marxist. Do you actually believe that he is the anticrist? The crazies on the right act like he doesnt want to make America great, that he has americas best interests at heart. Im sorry buy I just cant believe that. That he is in bed with the enemy. Do you actually believe that? Well, the hard right does, or acts like they do. 8 years of hate and divisveness and no true leadship. We had so much opportunity, and it went to waste. I, too, will cry on election night should Obama win. I used to be idealistic about poltics and the last 8 years have destroyed that idealism. I want to believe in America again.

  16. Mithras Says:

    <blockquote>I checked out the Obama Speech tweet-thread on Twitter last night – it was nonstop Obama supporters reporting weeping. I am NOT making this up. It’s fricking weird and speaks more to the audience following than to Obama, who is in reality, a fairly remote guy, emotionally speaking ( not unlike Reagan) who seems to have few, if any, close personal friends. </blockquote>

    I think you need to appreciate two things. First, many Obama supporters are moved by the fact that the country appears ready to make progress on race, by electing someone who appears to strike the right balance between deliberation and decisiveness and who happens to be mixed race. It’s hard to overstate how important that is to his supporters, like me, who grew up with white racist violence committed by people who called themselves the KKK.

    Secondly, for many voters the past 8 years have been extremely alienating. It’s not just a matter of policy differences, it’s a matter of thinking the country had lost its mind as evidenced by the election of a shallow, callous, belligerent dimwit. Obama comes along and he seems like both an intellectual and a mensch, someone with heart, who if quite emotionally controlled (think about why someone with his life story might be that way) in public seems clearly to have a great marriage and family, so he’s hardly an emotional cripple. To the extent that the prospect of him winning this election makes some people weep, they’re shedding tears of <i>relief.</i>

  17. Mithras Says:

    Oops, I forgot to use the formatting buttons. Sorry, guys.

  18. zen Says:

    Hi Folks,
    First, a public service. If you have more than two links in your comment, it will automatically be held for moderation. Just FYI. I’ll get to it ASAP but if you want your comment posted immediately, keep the links to a minimum.
    Hi Chuck,
    ‘Anti-Christ"? Boy, you are barking up the wrong tree here. LOL! 
    No, I do not think in those terms. Obama is very comfortable with figures on the extreme Left  (his "moderate" associates are Daley machine apparatchiks)- he wrote of seeking them out deliberately in one of his memoirs – without feeling obligated to buy into any part of their philosophy when it would cause him political inconvenience to do so.  He likes keeping his options wide open but by the standards of American politics, Obama favors those of the "progressive" variant of liberalism.
    Hi fgdf,
    First, to clarify, Jason Goldberg, who runs Socialmedian ( an information aggregator/Web 2.0 service) is a HUGE supporter of Obama, not a Right-winger. Socialmedian was just carrying news articles on Obama in their feed.
    Yes, I would write political analysis from my own perspective ( as would we all) and the mid late 1970’s was, given Obama’s age of 46, the time when he would have been having his formative political experiences growing up. Having also lived through the period myself, I see some echoes of that cultural zeitgeist in what the article described as a consciously crafted political strategy. Obviously, judging from the comments, the point hit a raw nerve so I’m not alone in seeing a partial pattern.
    I would agree with you that Obama has a very high level of social intelligence, as did Reagan. Obama’s gestures though do not "connect" with me – frankly, George W. never did either – which is unsurprising because I am not the audience he’s targeting.
    I’m not seeing why the incursion into Syria is a problem, unless you believe a massive invasion of Syria by the Bush administration is imminent. Seems to have been appropriately and proportionately targeted and, in my view, overdue in the day late dollar short sense.

  19. Eddie Says:

    "Obama’s handlers have ventured into a new frontier of inchoate emotionality normally associated with Holy Roller churches and crowds that see apparitions in paint stains on walls."
    That’s hilarious!
    Though it describes about a quarter of the GOP base, especially some of the evangelicals (I don’t want to be mean but I visited about 19 or so churches in my area of NC  this year to find one my wife and I would both like and witnessed very, very disturbing and often frankly hilarious church congregations and sermons.. if I hear "Jesus in combat boots" one more time my head will explode and I will be reborn as Todd McFarlane’s Spawn) Palin people who treat her as some sort of apocalyptic Joan of Arc figure who will slay the godless liberals and Muslim hordes.

    Thank you for explaining the 70’s feelings liberalism more. I simply have no idea of much of the undercurrents of the 70’s and 60’s that influenced behavior, ideas and policy.

    I am disturbed by some of the personality cult around him, but then I see the Palin acolytes (who have only had barely two months to develop) like at the rally she held @ Elon U in Burlington, NC (20 mins from me and yes, I did attend out of curiosity)  and it bugs me just as much . Its a flaw of our modern politics perhaps? Again, Adam has a great point there.

    As far as weeping goes, yes some of those people probably are CAT 4’s.

    Then again, I felt profoundly moved watching elderly black people take their grandchildren and great grandchildren with them to vote and listening to what they said in line to them, things like "nothing is impossible in this country, only this country". 

     I agree. Bush did not run as "some kind of post-political messiah figure." He ran as an uber-political messiah figure. Not much of a difference IMHO.

  20. Eddie Says:

    Btw, Cunning Realist offers a troubling thought for what happens if Obama fails miserably.


    "Related, a broad swath of this country has been turned off to conservatism and the Republican Party, perhaps permanently. If Obama wins and four years from now the economy hasn’t improved and his approval rating is at 30%, where will those people turn — politically, socially, and culturally? History has some pretty nasty examples of what can happen after dynamic, galvanizing agents of "change" either don’t meet expectations or for whatever reason are interrupted in their mission. "

  21. Mithras Says:

    Aside from twitter messages and conservative blog posts, I’m curious about people’s sources of information. I’ve been to four public Obama events, and I got to shake his hand. Didn’t cry once. Anyone else actually been to an Obama rally and talked to his supporters?

    To be fair, I haven’t been to a McCain rally, although they held a couple out in the near suburbs, and I have generalized from video of such events about the nature of McCain’s supporters emotional and mental states.

  22. zen Says:

    I know and talk to Obama supporters all the time, including relatives. I have not attended any rallies for either candidate . In general,  I’ve only gone out of my way to meet well known political figures twice – Mikhail Gorbachev, who I did not get to meet but was standing in proximity to while he talked and William Rehnquist when he was Chief Justice ( we briefly chatted about the French Revolution).  Passed on meeting Bush II and Cheney as it did not seem worth $2500 bucks and an hour drive. Any other meetings with pols have been at random.

  23. Mithras Says:

    Like I said, I’ve been to four events – wait, five – a meeting with the Philly volunteers, a fundraiser, the acceptance speech in Denver and two of the recent Philly rallies, and in those five events, no exceptional religious imagery or language was used (aside from platitudes like "God bless America") and no one I saw fainted or cried, or seemed to be transported with joy/ecstacy/rage/whatever.  Although they were very enthusiastic audiences, my impression was that they were less adoring fans than people who seemed to be waiting expectantly for something great that might come to pass. There also was a fair amount of discussion of what we all saw as Obama’s superb rhetorical skills, which might inspire people to support and work for good policy changes, but always in the light of how difficult it is to change anything when fighting against entrenched interests. We talked about the amount of work we would have to do to win the election, followed by the amount of work we’d have to do to get things done if he did win.

    Audiences at home watching on TV may in fact have a more visceral reaction to some of his speeches, because the close-up makes the delivery more gripping.

    All in all, though, I think the Obama-as-messiah thing is a media invention that Obama’s opponents have taken at face value. Certainly I’ve never heard of a messiah that was so reserved and modest. Did anyone catch the interview Rachel Maddow did with him yesterday? She asked why, given the right’s attacks on Democrats and liberalism as a whole, he hadn’t taken a swing at Republicans and conservatives as a whole as bad for the country by tying them to George W. Bush. (This is something that some liberals have been clamoring for.) For people who fear he’s going to be too much of a liberal partisan, his answer should be comforting: The problems the next president is going to be saddled with are too large to alienate and shut the door to people on one side of the aisle. As a governing philosophy and as a campaign message, I think it’s pretty strong.
    Bottom line: People who fear an Obama presidency on the basis of his supposed radicalism or messianic adoration by his supporters either have incomplete data or are themselves not thinking clearly.

  24. CKR Says:

    Zen, extending warfare past political borders is always risky. And Syria has been reaching out lately to perhaps make nice.
    And the question with the crew now in Washington always is, what next?

  25. Lexington Green Says:

    "He ran as an uber-political messiah figure. Not much of a difference IMHO."
    I did not see that.  I did not see crowds swooning for Dubya.  I do not recall him saying that we are going to move beyond the old politics to something special and new.  If he tried that stuff, he would have been laughed out of the room.
    I am not going to go back and do a survey of Bush speeches or anything.  I will rely on my recollection in this particular forum.  And I will stick with my assertion that the type of language and tone Obama adopted, particularly prior to getting the nomination was unusual.  Many wept with joy, feeling themselves hungry for change, and other expressions that left me puzzled.  I do not think it was at all a typical approach.  It worked for him in part because of its daring and novelty. 
    He has set the bar very high for himself, as a result. 

  26. Eddie Says:

    Most interesting crowd I was among was at a Romney gathering right before Thanksiving last year in Seattle . A young mother holding her 8 month old explained capital-gains taxes and conservative concerns about free trade agreements. Everyone seemed more interested in Romney’s Q&A than his speech, as he had some very good answers and could get really wonkish with econ and tax stuff. People seemed to be interested in his ideas.

    I have been to three Obama rallies (Seattle, Greensboro & Greensboro again).  Impressive mix of old and young, no fainting, though I did witness a bit of crying, especially as he reached a rhetorical height or three. People seemed to have a good time and were interested in what he could accomplish.

    I went to the Palin rally in Burlington and was a tad shocked at the audience. A lot of young white women. Audience seemed really, really angry. Angry at what? Angry at McCain. Angry at Obama. Angry at Bush. Angry at liberals. Angry at the media.  She fired them up and did not have much of anything substantive to say.  Q&A consisted of "what can be done about the media when you win?" & "why isn’t Rev. Wright mentioned more often?". Local speakers before Palin whipped the crowd up about liberals taking over NC and domestic terrorists having friends in the White House.

  27. Mithras Says:

    Regarding "what can be done about the media when you win?", do you remember what the response from Palin was to that question?

  28. Eddie Says:

    Is this referring to her already infamous mangling of the 1st Amendment today regarding her criticism of Obama (still waiting on the other terrorists she was referring to when she described it in the plural)?

  29. Lexington Green Says:

    The two terrorists are Ayers and his wife. 

  30. Mithras Says:

    You forgot Khalidi!

  31. Jay@Soob Says:

    Surprised nobody mentioned this: http://www.careerjournal.com/article/SB122533157015082889.html

    Fouad Ajami’s Obama and the Politics of Crowds.

  32. Russian Revolution - ????????? ? ?????? Says:

    Russian Revolution – ????????? ? ??????…

    […]zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » The Return of 1970’s “Feelings” Liberalism[…]…

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