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Like Jim Jones, Obama has done his best to give us a good life, but the Republicans, FOX News, the Supreme Court, the Koch Brothers and powerful interests have sabotaged his efforts with their lies. And yet in the end it’s not the enemies who bear the final burden, but the people who weren’t good enough.
Cults demand more and more from their followers to impose upon them an unreasonable and unshakeable burden of guilt. The cult appeals to those who want to make more of their lives and it destroys their will by making them feel like failures. The Obama campaign’s endless demands of its followers have that tenor as well. Behind all the flowery words, the burden of responsibility is being shifted from his people to his supporters.
The cult frames everything in terms of commitment. What begins as a commitment to personal and global transformation becomes a commitment to the demands of the cult. The commitment is meant to be mutual and it is occasionally even framed in terms of a marriage.
“In all our years of marriage, he’s always looked out for me. Now, I see that same commitment every day to you and to this country,” Michelle Obama’s campaign mailing says. “The only way we’ll win this election is if we can rely on one another like that.”
The commitments, of course, aren’t mutual. They can’t be. The disparity in power is too great. The cult exists for the sake of the leader, but the leader does not exist for the sake of the cult. Once the followers realize this, the illusion of mutual commitment breaks down. And to keep them from realizing it, the cult strives to make them feel that they have not lived up to their commitment.
And yet all this only works for as long as the transformative illusion endures. When the sense that the commitment to the cult is not transformative, that the principles of its program cannot make a better world, then its power fades away and dies. The cult may amp up its marketing, but the only product that it ever truly had was intangible.
The Obama campaign never sold Obama; it sold the idea of Obama. The illusion that was more than the sum of his false biography, his chin up speeches full of momentous pauses and stolen poetry, or the typography of his posters. It was the sense of imminence, the perception of a transformative figure who could change the country and the world. That magnetic tug wasn’t Obama, it was the confused mess of desires, fears, hopes, dreams and wishes that the people were encouraged to project onto him.
Whether or not Obama wins again, his cult has failed. It failed because it was not able to deliver on its promises of transformation, nor was it able to place the blame on its followers. Most of those who voted for Obama will drink the Kool-Aid one more time, but there will be little enthusiasm in the drinking of it.
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