The Corner

Misunderstood Messianism

Jonathan Chait writes, “The Cult of Obama is no stranger or kitschier than the Cult of Reagan or the (short-lived) Cult of George W. Bush. . . . It’s true that a lot of Obama supporters have unrealistic expectations of what he could accomplish as president, but that is not a good reason to vote against him.”

Three points. First: Reagan had actually accomplished a few things–for example, he had had a successful presidency–before anything resembling a “cult” formed around him. The lionization of Obama given his meager accomplishments is a much stranger phenomenon. Second: When political movements exaggerate their leaders’ virtues, their opponents will make fun of them. Chait has written articles ridiculing the Right’s Reagan-love; why can’t we do the same thing? Third: The point of the McCain campaign’s attacks on Obama as a celebrity is not to make people vote against him in disgust at his supporters. It is to suggest that once the halo is taken off him, he isn’t a very compelling figure. Agreeing with that assessment as I do, I don’t see anything wrong with putting it forward (although there are of course better and worse ways to do it).

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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