The Most Ridiculous Story Of 2008? Part 2
We now also know, thanks to Michael Chabon, who authored the second article of 2008 to be nominated as potentially the year's most ridiculous, that the debate about who should be the next president of the United States is over.
In Obama vs. the Phobocracy, Chabon says if you don't agree the debate is over -- heck, even if you ask a single question about Barack Obama -- you are against truth and mankind's better nature, a gross purveyor of fear, and a dasher of hope. For espousing this view, Chabon joins Gloria Steinem in this year's list of nominees.
(The rules for the competition are this: Entries must be work that serious writers present in all seriousness that goes far, far beyond the sublime and settle heavily into the imbecilic.)
At least Chabon let's us know at the outset that he's on a take no prisoners mission:
There are many reasons not to support Barack Obama's candidacy for president, but every one of them is bad for the same reason.Ergo, there are only reasons to support Obama. Read on at your own risk.
Chabon tells us that because he supports Obama and has for some time, he's had to put up with people actually telling him "with wistfulness and regret, or with a pundit's show of certainty, or with a well-earned but useless skepticism" their reasons for not supporting his man. But he felt he had to put up with them:
Because Obama appears to be a patient, forbearing man with a gift for listening, I figured I owed it to him to play the thing his way. So I have nodded and looked into their eyes and hummed sympathetically as people gave their reasons and made their excuses and generally offered up, as if they were golden ingots of profound wisdom, the handful of two-penny nails with which they plan to board up the windows of their hopes for themselves, their families, their country and the world.There you go. Any reason to not support Obama -- oh, like his support of partial birth abortion -- is just shutting out hope. Tell that to the dismembered baby in the abortionist's trash can. (For background on this Obama position and other real world positions mentioned in this post as a contrast to the image Chabon would have us embrace, check out this comprehensive post from Flopping Aces.)
Chabon has had it up to here with the stupidity of these imbeciles whose hearts don't go drowning in pitter-pat at the mention of Obama's name, so he's writing this piece and WaPo is running all 1,475 words of it.
The people who come up to Chabon with questions aren't a bad lot ... you know, they're not Republicans ... but rather "people who know that Obama is a remarkable, even an extraordinary politician, the kind who comes along, in this era of snakes and empty smiles, no more than once a generation," but have been duped by "an all-out, months-long push by the cynicism industry."
Shame on them for doing that irritating thing that people do every four years or so: ask questions about a candidate. How can they do that to someone Chabon critically eyes and pronounces "at once brilliant and sensible, vibrant and measured, engaged and engaging, talented, forthright, quick-witted, passionate, thoughtful and, as with all remarkable people whom experience has taught both the extent and the bitter limits of their gifts, reasonably humble?"
Is Chabon Barack's secret gay lover? Or is it just puppy love?
Chabon, who must live in some sequestered liberal enclave, apparently hasn't heard any questions about Obama's policies or character or experience. Rather, the nature of opposition to Obama is limited to this:
Things are so bad we just can't afford to waste our votes, people tell me, on some fantasy super-president with magical powers. We need someone electable, someone, as I have been told repeatedly in the past year, who can win.So that's the bad question that rankles him so! It must be, because it's the only real question he raises. And he answers it by pointing to Obama's beaming hope, which is so evident to him only because he is one of those dreary people with a dark view of our country:
In a better world, if there were such a thing (and so far there never has been), we would not need a president like Obama as badly as we do. If there were less at stake, if our democracy had not been permitted, indeed encouraged, to sink to its present degraded and embattled condition not only by the present administration but by a fair number of those people now seeking to head up the next one, perhaps then we could afford to waste our votes on the candidate who knows best how to jigger, to manipulate and to conform to the vapid specifications of the debased electoral process it has been our unhappy fate to construct for ourselves.In other words, it's a shame Obama even has to put up with this Democratic primary process, where people actually vote on who the candidate should be. He should simply be declared president, or king, or whatever Chabon wants to declare him, and get on with being His Luminency.
Chabon, who is a novelist of some fame, then gets to expressing what Obama is all about, and he does it in a paragraph-length construction that is anything but a sentence. I've read it several times now and I still have no idea what he's trying to say.
Because ultimately, that is the point of Obama's candidacy -- of the hope, enthusiasm and sense of purpose it inspires, yes, but more crucially, of the very doubts and reservations expressed by those who pronounce, whether in tones of regret, certainty or skepticism, that America is not ready for Obama, or that Obama is not ready for the job, or that nobody of any worth or decency -- supposing there even to be such a person left on the American political scene -- can be expected to survive for a moment with his idealism and principle intact.Guesses on the point of Obama's candidacy, anyone?
Before we leave, let's get to the title of piece and what Chabon means by a phobocracy. He tells us that America's sorry state isn't "the fault of George W. Bush and his minions, the corporate-controlled media, the insurance industry, the oil industry, lobbyists, terrorists, illegal immigrants or Satan." No! It's
The point is that this mess is our fault. We let in the serpents and liars, we exchanged shining ideals for a handful of nails and some two-by-fours, and we did it by resorting to the simplest, deepest-seated and readiest method we possess as human beings for trying to make sense of the world: through our fear. America has become a phobocracy.Yes indeedy. To paraphrase some other great champion of massive government, there is no reason to fear an Obama presidency except fear itself:
Since I started talking and writing about Obama I have come to see that this ruling fear, and nothing else, lies at the back of every objection or reservation people raise or harbor regarding the man and his candidacy.Not Obama's support of the Nanny State, not his desire to raise taxes, not his rigid staking out of far-left positions, no it's just ugly, irrational fear that holds us back from giving Obama a political bear hug. What kind of fear?
Fear whispers to us that white voters have a nasty tendency to tell pollsters, friends and neighbors that they support an African American candidate, then go into the voting booth and let the fear known as racism pull the lever.
Fear tells us that ugliness, rage and brutality are the central facts of human existence, that decency and tolerance are luxuries on whose altar our enemies will be only too happy to sacrifice us.
In case you missed it, Chabon just called you a racist, fully of ugliness, rage and brutality. Unless, of course, you're an Obama supporter; then you've captured the magic; you've drunk the KoolAid:
To support Obama, we must permit ourselves to feel hope, to acknowledge the possibility that we can aspire as a nation to be more than merely secure or predominant. We must allow ourselves to believe in Obama, not blindly or unquestioningly as we might believe in some demagogue or figurehead ...Wait a minute! Up to this point, all Chabon has said is that if we don't support the man, we are, in his words, meritless, without hope, racist, brutal ... and we are to accept this man he is demagoging onto us?
... but as we believe in the comfort we take in our families, in the pleasure of good company, in the blessings of peace and liberty, in any thing that requires us to put our trust in the best part of ourselves and others. That kind of belief is a revolutionary act. It holds the power, in time, to overturn and repair all the damage that our fear has driven us to inflict on ourselves and the world.Not once in this piece does Chabon get to how Obama is going to do any of this; nary a policy or position is mentioned. This is, instead, image politics played out to its dangerous, ridiculous extreme.
There are no good reasons to oppose the image Chabon has attached himself as a leech to. There are just good reasons to question the candidate behind the image, to suspect the reality behind the gleaming polish, and to (and I use this word advisedly) fear the results of electing an image as our next president.