Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Protests Prove President Obama's Charismatic Moment Has Passed; But Conservatives Must Recognize the Cost of McCain's Defeat

Professor Fouad Ajami, already known to me to be a perceptive observer of the Middle East, shows himself to be an equally keen observer of the American political scene. In today's Wall Street Journal Opinion section, he notes with irony how American liberal politicians have turned away from their embrace of robust political dissent during the George W. Bush Administration:

A political class, and a media elite, that glamorized the protest against the Iraq war, that branded the Bush presidency as a reign of usurpation, now wishes to be done with the tumult of political debate. President Barack Obama himself, the community organizer par excellence, is full of lament that the "loudest voices" are running away with the national debate. Liberalism in righteous opposition, liberalism in power: The rules have changed.

Only, as Professor Ajami proceeds to point out, the reality of American politics has not changed. President Obama, who wrote to election victory on charismatic appeal, now has discovered that charisma alone is not a sustaining force in American politic life. It has been revealed that the Emperor has no clothes. "In reality, he was who he was, a Chicago politician who had done well by his opposition to the Iraq war," Professor Ajami writes, and then adds:

American democracy has never been democracy by plebiscite, a process by which a leader is anointed, then the populace steps out of the way, and the anointed one puts his political program in place. In the American tradition, the "mandate of heaven" is gained and lost every day and people talk back to their leaders. They are not held in thrall by them. The leaders are not infallible or a breed apart. That way is the Third World way, the way it plays out in Arab and Latin American politics.

Gee, I hope that Professor Ajami is right. Watching the warm welcome Senator John McCain received at a townhall meeting in Sun City, Arizona, today, I think he may be right.

But while we are on the subject of John McCain, those conservatives out there who were unwilling to give Senator McCain the financial support and energy he needed to contest the 2008 presidential election, because he was not pure enough in his conservatism, do you still believe that it did not make a difference whether John McCain or Barack Obama won the election?


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