Saturday, October 11, 2008

More of the Same Hero Worship?

Initially, I was an Obama doubter. I was backing John Edwards - now of course it is clear where my doubts should have rested, but even as I have come to appreciate the manifold talents, temperament, and decency of Mr Obama - indeed, even as I have thrown myself into campaigning on his behalf, I retain a sense of reservation. I am subtly but increasingly wary and even resistant to the pull of hero-worship that seems to infect everyone around me.

Deep down a voice inside me whispers with urgency "We do not need a savior, a hero on a white horse, a great man - this is a path away from democracy and the end of our great republic." After eight years of the Cheney administration's "Unitary Executive", I want to avoid a counter-reaction from the left, a swing in direction but a continuation of a governing power that resides not in the Congress but in the White House, a continuation of the emasculation of checks and balances and the withering of the applicability of laws to those residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

When the President does it, it isn't illegal - these words of Richard Nixon's have been the credo of Mr Cheney and his ilk. The underlying mindset that permitted the return of this pirate ethos to the Presidency is a willingness among a broad swath of Americans to place their trust in one man, believed to be in touch with God Almighty, rather than in the laws, traditions, and institutions of o ur government.

The government is not the solution to our problems - it is the problem, argued the great man-leader of Republicans. This attitude produced the tragic ineptitude and neglect that was so evident in the aftermath of Katrina, in the administration of the ruinous war in Iraq, and in the meltdown of our financial markets and institutions.

We do not need more of the same. I support Barack Obama, and I hope with all my heart he has the wisdom of Lincoln, the genius and perserverance of FDR, the energy and political mastery of LBJ, and the goodness, idealism, generosity of spirit, and humane decency that is needed in such a time of crisis and hardship. But my deepest hope is that my elected representatives in Congress will assert the power of their institution and regain my trust and the trust of the nation. My deepest hope is that that my President and my Congress will work together to meet our great national challenges - and to heal the injuries to our constitutional, republican and democratic government.

I fear that in placing the halo on Obama's head, we are repeating the mistake made by those who placed that same halo on the head of George W Bush. I am uneasy, even as I tingle with anticipation of the coming Democratic victory.

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