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[Opinion] Fear of being conned behind attacks on Obama's supporters
Howard Schumann (howard16)     Print Article 
Published 2008-02-17 12:34 (KST)   
Recently, there has been a spate of articles from political writers attacking supporters of US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as "cultists" and issuing dire warnings that Obama will crumble at the slightest whiff of Republican attack ads.

ABC's Jake Tapper notes the "Helter-Skelter cultish qualities" of "Obama worshipers," and Joel Stein of The Los Angeles Times labels Obama supporters as "the cult of Obama." Time magazine's Joe Klein goes even further to pigeonhole the Obama campaign. "There was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism," he writes. "The message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is."

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Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post warns, "Democrats are worried that the Obama spell will break between the time of his nomination and the time of the election, and deny them the White House. My guess is that he can maintain the spell just past Inauguration Day. After which will come the awakening. It will be rude."

What is evident is that these writers can see no model other than the politics of partisanship and gamesmanship that has divided America for too many decades, ignoring the fact that Obama won substantial victories in such non-hippie outposts as Nebraska, Idaho, Delaware and Georgia and has won support across every major demographic of the political spectrum.

Obama, they think, cannot possibly be what he seems. Since so many politicians have conned us in the past, they think that he must be more of the same. In the 1970s, a self-help program called est (Erhard Seminars Training) assisted hundreds of thousands of people to gain control of their lives. The media however could only focus on snippets of what they heard about the methods of the program and completely ignored the results. They labeled those that completed the training "esties" and "cultists," lumping them in with the "Moonies" and the followers of Hare Krishna.

It also spurred a negative reaction from the psychiatric and academic establishment, unwilling to believe that people could alter the quality of their life in the space of 60 hours, contrary to the deeply ingrained notion that progress had to take months, years, and even decades to be achieved. Consequently, est was labeled "pop psychology," "brainwashing," and "a boot-camp approach to psychology." The fact that people's lives could be totally altered in the space of two weekends was not conceivable to them outside of the established paradigm.

What was driving the media in those days is similar to what is going on today, the fear of being conned. We are so used to being conned every day by television advertising, unscrupulous promotions, and deceptive politicians that when something authentic comes along, we are afraid to take the risk that it might be real. That is a prescription for being stuck, not for making the changes in our society that are required. Obama may not be only a new type of politician but a harbinger of how our society may be transforming in the 21st century.

According to author Corinne Mclaughlin, "A new spiritual politics is emerging" Citing the powerful new Internet "Webocracy" that has changed the political landscape dramatically in just a few, very short years, she says that the trend is toward more direct-democracy and citizen involvement. The ability to connect with and interact over the Internet with people of different political persuasion has shown that we are not that far apart and that in Adlai Stevenson's phrase, "The things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us."

Obama has shown that he gets where our politics is headed. When he says he can bring people together to accomplish goals that have long been in stalemate, people scoff saying that it can't be done. To that he responds, "Yes we can." It is no mystery that his campaign has struck a responsive chord among people on all sides of the political spectrum looking for a way out of the morass of the last eight years.

The fact that he can point to a way that transcends our divisions is the spark that has united people in supporting his candidacy, not elitism or cultism or any other "ism" the cynics would have you believe. Like choosing to enroll in the est training in the 1970s, the decision to support or not support Obama must be based on our sense of the authenticity of the experience, not on our fears of change and our failure to understand that, as in Bob Dylan's song, "The Times They Are a-Changin'."
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Howard Schumann

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