Via Ethan in the diaries, USA Today's Susan Page is noticing a trend: Obama supporters are realizing that Obama is, after all, a politician, and subject to the same incentives and problems as all the rest of them...
“I think there has been some erosion of the aura of excitement about a different kind of politician that Barack -- they really fueled Barack Obama’s rise. It’s helped him with fundraising, given him these huge crowds at events. I’ve been talking to voters this past week for a story I’m working on, and I’ve had some people, young people who felt that Obama was the candidate of a generation, saying they’re distressed by some of the standard political moves that they’re seeing now.” – USA Today’s Susan Page on MSNBC’s Hardball, 6/2/08
The Great Man Theory of politics is bankrupt. The problem is not the politicians themselves, but the incentives built into the system (e.g., Public Choice Theory). No politician is immune to those perverse incentives.
However, there is another fascinating story at play with the Obama campaign: the sociological and psychological dynamics of movements driven by Transformational Leaders.
In May, Matt Stoller wrote a fascinating post about the ongoing realignment of the Democratic Party, how Obama is consolidating his own power, and what the Obama consolidation of power is doing to the Progressive, Netroots and Democratic movements. The post is impressive and worrisome.
The Obama candidacy is a major inflection point for the Democratic Party. They may ride it to dominance, or it may expose internal divisions and weaknesses. The dynamics that surround a Transformational or Charismatic Leader movement will be very important to watch, though. In particular, the Obama movement will be subject to...
- The difficulty of routinizing/bureaucratizing the leader's charisma
- The danger of disillusionment among followers
- The difficulty that necessary political compromise presents to a very idealistic movement
- Marked distinctions between the idealistic Transformational Leader and the status quo/pragmatic/entrenched bureaucracy he will oversee
We are already seeing some signs of alienation. That will continue.